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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stem Cell Therapy: to do it or not to do it?

It seems like people get on either side of this issue and stay there - like it's black and white. From my perspective, as a mother of a person who potentially has much to gain from stem cell therapy and an intelligent person, I can tell you there is nothing self evident about it. It's not a no-brainer to do it or not to do it. I have been criticized for not raising funds to take Ellie to China and get the treatment straight away. And on the other hand I was told I was nuts to even be considering it in any time under 30 years.

I was asked by Katy to provide some information on stem cell therapy and that is what has prompted this post. I wish it were the magic bullet any parent of a disabled child is looking for. Some surefire way to take away the disability, pain and uncertainty. I am pretty sure though that there are no such magic bullets in life but rather only experiences that deserve paying attention to in order to learn and become better than we are.

That said, we have been standing in the wings waiting for a significant breakthrough on the stem cell front where Ellie is concerned. It strikes us that within Ellie's lifetime current techniques will be further refined such that the improvements will be far greater than the 25% that seems to be a common number in the blogs of those undergoing the treatment.

The big question is how long it will take for medicine to get to this point? Our biggest concern is that the long term affects are not really known. It's comforting to see that a US study shows that the umbilical cells appear to be safe and have no known side effects ... but at the same time our instincts say wait a little longer and track some of the existing patients and see how they get on.

Here in the US, it seems as though the public mood is behind stem cells/against the current administration and many states have big research budgets & programs underway so I'm hopeful we will start to see some breakthroughs in the next few years. The problem is, stem cell treatments will likely be highly regulated by the FDA and it will take even longer for the treatments to hit the mainstream in the US than in other countries.

We spoke with Radar in Malibu CA/Bahamas and also Dr. Steenblock who does the umbilical transplants in Mexico. We came away with the same impression that they were both somewhat fly by night operations and didn't fully trust them. Also neither seemed to publicly track patients post-op as chinastemcells seem to be doing. China seems to be quite far ahead and they are using umbilical cord cells.

Below are a list of blogs that we have been following. this blog is great for tracking stem cell news reports

Dave found this clinic in Germany. They are not using cord blood but adult stem cells from bone marrow. XCell Center - Regenerative Medicine

Beike Bio-tech and stem cell processing at

So what do you think? Is it safe? Does the benefit, at this point outweigh the risk?

Any research studies or blogs or websites that any of you lovely readers out there would like to share on this topic will be greatly appreciated.