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Posted May 25, 2014: by Bill Sardi
What you won’t hear about stem cell technology is that it is a flop. Despite billions of dollars of investment money, it is going nowhere. In fact, what is going on today in research labs doesn’t even involve stem cells. You can read more about it at Dr. William Prather’s article entitled “The Unrealized Potential Of Stem Cell Therapy.” [DDD Magazine Oct 2013]
A problem with the stem cell industry is that it becomes so difficult to scuttle a research program that employs so many people at a time when unemployment is a national embarrassment. There are an estimated 6100 full-time employees working in regenerative medicine and over 100 companies involved in stem cell therapies. There were 537 patents filed for stem cell technology in 2007. The National Institutes of Health is reported to have spent $546 million on embryonic stem cell research. [StemCellAction.org] This perpetually promising industry is only in operation as long as it is government subsidized.
Dr. George Daley, a founder of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, says “We need decades to learn how to harness the healing power of stem cells.” [NPR.org Feb 2, 2013] How long will all this money keep being stuffed down the stem cell rabbit hole?
An obstacle to instilling stem cells into damaged tissues is how to do that in remote organs such as the eye or brain. What is so devastating about degeneration of eye or brain cells is that once nerve cells are lost they do not grow back.
But researchers, referring to regeneration of damaged brain cells, say that endogenous (native) nerve stem cells are capable of self-renewal throughout life and there are ways of tweaking biological pathways governing cell regrowth. [Expert Opinion Biology Therapy Sept 2009]
I’ve previously written about the activation of regenerative stem cells that are already produced naturally in the human body (called endogenous stem cells).
There is promise that retinal regeneration can actually be activated internally. [Translational Research April 2014] Eye researchers recently said “a less invasive method of retinal regeneration by mobilization of endogenous stem cells is highly desirable.”
I’ve documented that endogenous stem cell repair may have already been demonstrated in humans with eye problems utilizing natural small molecules like resveratrol. [Resveratrol News Jan 2, 2013; Resveratrol News Dec 31, 2012; Nutrients June 2013] There is now more to say.
A more precise understanding of the mechanisms involved in endogenous stem cell regeneration is now at hand.
For example, researchers have identified cells at the back of the human eye called Muller cells are dormant stem-like cells. There are also stem-like cells at the front of the eye that can be recruited to be naturally transported to the injured retina.
Activation of genes known as Notch and Wnt and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) can reprogram stem cells to become retinal light receptor cells. Of interest is that retinoic acid (vitamin A) has been demonstrated to stimulate Muller cells as well as the synthesis of hyaluronic acid in the connective tissue surrounding cells that triggers wound healing.
Vitamin A suppresses migration and invasion of cells at the back of the eyes via regulation from the gooey connective tissue (hyaluronic acid) surrounding these cells. [Experimental Eye Research April 2013]
Researchers are utilizing vitamin A in lab dishes to stimulate and maintain stem cells ability to differentiate into specialized cells. [Nutrients March 2014] But why limit vitamin A to lab dishes?
The medical literature is clear that supplemental vitamin A may be able to restore hearing via regeneration of damaged hair cells in the cochlea of the ear that receive vibrations and transmit them into sound in the brain. [Knowledge of Health May 21, 2014]
Even in damaged skin, topical vitamin A has been demonstrated to promote more rapid wound healing. [Diabetes March 2005]
This writer thinks endogenous stem cell therapy has already been demonstrated. It is just that modern medicine doesn’t want patients to proceed in an unguided fashion without the research community and physicians figuring out how to profit from it first. Curing without doctoring is taboo in modern medicine.
To go on, both vitamins A and D are being experimented with together to regenerate insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. [Stem Cell Review March 2011] There is even work in progress to explore how vitamin D can restore ability of hair follicles to grow hair again. [Stem Cells Translational Medicine Aug 2012]
Biologists have shown that the maintenance of vitamin D blood levels is important in stem-like cells called endothelial progenitor cells that maintains proper flow of blood and blood pressure among patients with diabetes. [Journal Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism May 2011]
Vitamin D inhibits the autoimmune rejection of instilled or endogenous stem cells. [Experimental Hematology April 2012]
While there is concern that promotion of stem cell survival may also promote the growth of existing tumors, vitamin D has been found to suppress the enzyme telomerase that is elevated in most types of cancer. [Journal Biological Chemistry Nov 2012] So fear that stem cell regeneration may spur the growth of tumor cells may be overstated.
It has also been reported that vitamin D helps to maintain a type of regenerative cells (endothelial progenitor cells) that can renew the inner lining of arteries called the endothelium. This was also demonstrated in humans. [Panminerva Medicine June 2010]
The molecules that promote cell regeneration have already been identified – vitamins A and D, small molecules called polyphenols (catechin EGCG from green tea, sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts, curcumin from turmeric spice and resveratrol from grapes. [Journal Nutritional Biochemistry July 2012]
While activation of the Sirtuin1 survival gene has been widely studied in aging, vitamin A appears to suppress Sirtuin1 and enhance the differentiation of stem cells into brain cells via gene control by microRNA-34a. [Cellular Molecular Neurobiology May 2014]
Another observation is that biologists in the laboratory utilize a gooey substance found in the connective tissue called hyaluronic acid to preserve stem cells in lab dishes. Activation of fibroblast cells to produce more hyaluronic acid may protect stem cells from damage and death via its ability to act as an antioxidant. [Aging Feb 2012] Oral hyaluronic acid is available commercially and stimulates fibroblasts to make more hyaluronic acid.
The point here is that patients suffering from strokes and brain injuries, irreversible retinal degeneration, spinal cord injuries and scarred hearts may begin to benefit from use of these natural molecules today. Most patients haven’t decades to wait for modern medicine to sort it all out and make a business out of it.
In animals, administration of the red wine molecule resveratrol into damaged hearts before stem cells were instilled promoted stem cell survival when most instilled stem cells normally die off. [Journal Cellular Molecular Medicine Jan 2012] So these molecules may even hold the key to the future success of stem cell therapy.
Is the research community hiding the fact regenerative stem cell therapy has already been demonstrated in humans? What harm could come of this if patients decided to proceed ahead in an unguided fashion and use these natural therapies on their own? Measured doses of these natural molecules aren’t causing serious side effects today.
The stem cell research industry and practicing clinicians have a different objective in mind – which is to produce blockbuster financial rewards rather than inexpensive regenerative cures. ©2014 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.
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