ALS and Fat Stem Cells? Every once in awhile I’ll get an unsolicted e-mail from the spouse of an ALS patient. I’ve blogged on the crazy stem cell treatments being offered these poor ALS patients. The ISSCR has made a point to seed new stories about how these patients are being taken advantage of and this is one point where I agree with the ISSCR. Case in point is a patient who e-mailed me tonight about how her husband had received an IV infusion of adipose SVF cells at a clinic in the southeastern U.S. This treatment was wrong on so many levels, that I felt badly telling her why I thought it wasn’t effective. I think my response to her might help other patients from getting taken advantage of by these nefarious clinics:
“They are using the…kit at … The concern with this “stem cell kit” is that it’s an open system and usually the cells aren’t processed with basic safety standards (which would be in a biologic safety cabinet). There is no way to “sterilize” cells without killing them, as all the same things that kill germs would also kill the cells (save for antibiotics, which shouldn’t cost $1,000). [The patient had paid an extra $1,000-total 15k to have the cells “sterilized’]…The kit says it isolates a “stromal vascular fraction” (SVF) [from fat]. There should be some mesenchymal stem cells in this mix, but how many this clinic can isolate with the kit has never been tested. The ICMS (a professional association of stem cell physicians) has asked this particular clinic many times to participate in its accreditation program which would require them to track patients in a non-profit registry, have their protocols approved by an IRB of peer physicians, and follow general guidelines on stem cell use-they have been unresponsive. The SVF that was injected IV will only get about 5 in 1,000,000 cells to your husband’s brain (see http://www.regenexx.com/2010/12/what-an-als-study-with-stem-cells-should-tell-patients-about-how-to-spot-real-stem-cell-therapies/ and http://www.regenexx.com/2009/06/injecting-stem-cells-iv-means-only-00005-reach-their-target-in-the-brain/). This means that if we very optimistically assume that they were able to harvest 50,000,000 stem cells [very, very optimistic] and none of these were killed by the steriklization, only about 250 would end up in the brain, not enough to do anything. In addition, on the Mannitol they used [the clinic claimed that by using this drug the stem cells would cross the blood brain barrier into the brain], a search of the national library of medicine finds not a single study showing that it would do anything (even in animal models) to allow stem cells to enter the brain. In the end, that’s the problem. We don’t have any research (not even in animal models) that shows that what they injected IV (SVF), would have any impact on ALS or any other neurodegenerative condition. Many of the studies on this company’s site are animal research models using a completely different cell type than SVF and the stem cells in these animal studies are usually placed in direct contact with the brain.”
I feel horrible for this woman whose poor husband is dying of this disease. She and her husband have every right to try whatever therapy they wish and doctors have the right to try any therapy they believe will help their patient. Having said that, we need to get rid of these clinics that are praying on the dying.