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I decided to spend a little time reading the report issued by a major stem cell clinic. What I found was interesting and discouraging. This from their conclusions:
"Although stem cell therapy has shown substantive progress in treating chronic lung disease, it is not a cure. Stem cell therapy cannot serve to grow new lung tissue, but can only work to stop or slow the progression of the disease itself. As with any form of treatment, the intended benefits of stem cell therapy are not universal and not every patient will respond equally to treatment.In the case of those who see progress in their condition, it may be gradually eroded by the degenerative nature of lung disease, ultimately requiring additional boosters to maintain the same effects."
Let's take a minute and look at what they are actually saying:
1. They have their usual disclaimer stating that this may not work for for everyone.
2. They state plainly that this is not a cure but instead MAY improve qualify of life based on a quality of life scale that is in itself subjective.
3. They state their their results are only temporary and that most will require continued boosters at more $$$$$$
In another part of the study they state they no longer use fat cells and now use blood cells as the fat cells provided no benefit. How I interpret this we made millions off of the fat cells so now we are trying something different because what we were doing didn't work (sorry you spent your money).
In another part they claim an average of 12% higher FEV-1. They are not claiming that is will add 12 points but instead 12%. So using this logic if you went in with a FEV-1 of 30 you might come out with an FEV-1 of around 34 (which would be around a 12% improvement, but keep in mind that many doctors would not consider this to be a statistical improvement and I can say from experience my FEV-1s vary to this degree regularly depending on how I was feeling when the test was done. Also keep in mind that they also say you will probably loose it if you don't keep going back in for more boosters. They also acknowledge the "placebo effect" as a factor in their findings but offer no basis as to how significant the placebo effect is in their findings..
They end their conclusions by stating:
"Although more studies using a greater number of patients are needed to further examine objective parameters such as PFTs, exercise tests, oxygen, medication use and hospital visits, larger sample sizes will also help determine if one protocol is more beneficial than others. With deeper research, utilizing economic analysis along with longer-term follow up will answer questions on patient selection, the benefits of repeated treatments and a possible reduction in healthcare costs for COPD treatment.
How I interpret this is they are basically saying that there is no clinical basis to say that what they are offering is really effective. Those who enroll in these services are basically paying out of pocket for what is in effect an experimental clinical research study, with no expectation of success.
On their Q&A page countless people ask why their insurance will not pay for it and their response is that insurance will not pay because it can be a long time before insurance companies recognize any treatment. To my mind, the fact is insurance does not pay because their is no proof that the treatment works in any statistically relevant way, that there is no expectation of any success other than some possibility of short term relief They also immediately point out that they do have payment plans and take credit cards.
My conclusion differs from theirs in that when you enroll in these types of clinics, what you are doing is paying them to develop and refine their business model. You are not offered any statistical chance of success (ie: you have X% chance you will benefit). If they came out and said something like "we will add 12 points to your FEV-1" I might actually be willing to take the chance at some point. The fact is, until stem cell research gets to the point where it can regenerate lung tissue and stop progression, clinics like these do not offer any tangible or long term benefits other than draining your bank account. I do believe we will get to the point where stem cell therapy will be a viable option, but this isn't it!
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