Richard has congestive heart failure. This disease affects his heart’s ability to pump sufficient blood to suit the body’s daily needs. Ultimately, the disease will progress to the point where the heart becomes weaker and weaker to a point of failure. That is why on August 16th, Richard a Braselton resident, and his wife Terre will fly to Thailand to receive stem cell therapy in Bangkok.
“I’m just weak, tired, and short of breath all the time,” Richard said. “I constantly have to monitor my blood pressure and my heart rate. All the medications, there’s no end to it.”
Outside of prescribing blood pressure medications, Richard’s doctors told him that there was nothing they could do when he was diagnosed in January. Angered by the lack of options they were presented with, Richard and Terre began to explore alternative treatment options. Their search finally concluded in Thailand, where a Bangkok-based biotechnology company will provide treatment for Richard using a relatively new medical procedure, utilizing adult stem cell therapy.
Richard’s own stem cells will be multiplied after doctors extract cells form a half pint of Richard’s blood. Later, doctors will take the newly multiplied stem cells and re-inject them into Richard’s ailing heart. He should experience less chest pain and greater strength in his daily living once the cells start to take effect, about a month or two following the procedure.
After performing the procedure on over 120 patients over a period of two years, the company claims a success rate of 80 percent. 11Alive, Paul Harvey, and the 700-Club have all joined in support of the treatment, touting “miracle” recoveries on their respective programs. The company’s website has these video news segments available for individuals to watch online as well as news of patients testifying before the congress about the benefits of adult stem cell therapy.
All this and there is still a poor understanding about the technicalities behind stem-cell led repair. Researchers see a result but question the process after stem cell are injected into an injured area of the body.
Adult stem cells hold the most potential at the present time. The course that future research will take has much to do with the ethical clash that is occurring over the use of embryos. The issue has now left the floor of the congress and has entered the lives of average people.
For Richard and Terre, the very fact that stem cells work trumped the need to know what manner the cells actually work in.
The advice that Richard should focus primarily on keeping his blood pressure down did not make neither him nor his wife very happy.
“We just didn’t expect that answer, that there’s nothing we can do,” Terre said. “This is just not an option for us.”
Terre began looking into the program in Bangkok after a family member heard of the treatment and told her. She spoke with several patients of the company along with a few company representatives after looking over the website. Later she learned that one of her co-workers knew someone who had successfully received treatment as well.
Three months ago, Richard was accepted into the program. Once they reach Bangkok, they will stay there for 20 days to tour the area before and after the procedure. The couple will pay $32,500 in cash for the “medical tourism” trip; this will cover the expenses completely minus the price of airfare.
They feel comfortable that they know enough about the non-US based company and stem cell therapy stated Terre.
“There’s no downside to this,” Terre said. “We don’t have any questions, we don’t have any concerns. We realize there are risks, but with an 80-percent rate of success, it’s a risk worth taking” (20-percent of those receiving the therapy experience no change — positive or negative — in their condition).
“I’ve got nothing to lose,” Richard says. “Rather than live a bad life like I’m living and doing nothing, I’d rather take chance and get something done.”
“It’s not a lot of money,” Terre says, noting that the price is “a really minimal cost when you’re talking about saving a life.” “A lot of people who are sick and trying to exercise other options are going to be able to find that money.”
“It’s costly, but it’s worth your life, I guess,” Richard said.
Impressed by the new technology, particularly the advancement in adult stem cell treatment, Richard and Terre are optimistic about the future of adult stem cell therapy.
“It’s going to be the coming way of medicine,” said Richard. “It’s gotta be, because it’s pretty strong.”
“This could eradicate cancer,” Terre said. “It is my personal opinion; the future of medicine is going to be stem cells. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
The company performing the procedure on Richard claims that once the stem cells are placed in the area of the heart that they, “have the potential to build new blood vessels and heart muscle.”
The theory is that the stem cells improve blood flow to the heart by regenerating or “revascularizing” functional blood vessels. The cells may also act as “scaffolds” which offer mechanical strength to the heart at a occasion when it is weak, or even promote the heart to release chemicals for repairing itself.
The jury is till out on how the stem cells help, but only vast potential seems to exist says Dr. Samuel, a cardiologist with Emory University. A major advantage of the therapy is that the patient receives his own cells, thus negating any type of immune response that could neutralize the therapeutic benefits of treatment making it less effective. Future research will lead to the transfer of adult stem cells from one body to another. This would allow for immediate injection at hospitals that would keep stem cells ready.
Presently in the United States, only clinical trials are permitted, but in five years the treatments “could definitely be translated into a pure clinical product,” states Samuel.
The couple commented on their opinions about embryoinc versus adult stem cells. With no ethical dilemma, adult stem cells hold great potential alone and thus they both choose to promote adult stem cell therapy as opposed to embryonic.
“My opinion is the American public is not educated,” Terre said. “These are your own stem cells; this is your own blood.”
“If we could just get over the hump of educating all Americans. It could be their son or daughter’s lives that we could save.”