Stem cell therapy offers fascinating alternatives to surgery, but it can be difficult to know which type to get. Consultation is an important part of developing a plan to meet the unique needs of each patient. In a recent television interview, Dr. Johnson answered questions about stem cell therapy. Here’s what he had to say.
HOST: Stem cells – we’ve heard a lot about them in recent medical stories but what are they and where do they come from and why all the excitement? A lot of questions so let’s get some answers.
Dr. Bill Johnson of Innovations Stem Cell Center is here, talking about doing some investigational work deploying stem cells for a number of different diseases.
Host: What are some of the disorders and diseases that are currently being investigated using stem cells for?
DR. BILL: Well, we do probably more arthritic joints than anything else. We do lots of knees and shoulders and hips and really seeing nice results. What we’re doing a lot of lung patients – COPD in particular. We’re doing a lot of neurologic disorders like Parkinson’s disease, stroke disease, and multiple sclerosis. We’re doing some skin disorders like lichen sclerosis. We’re doing a number of other disorders. There’s a long list that we have IRB protocols for.
HOST: Okay, and tell us why you think it’s so important that there is a review board that oversees all of this.
DR. BILL: Yeah, we’re working through an investigational review board and that is really I think an important aspect because you can kind of think of the investigational review board as laying down rules. If you’ve got traffic with no rules, you’ve got a lot of chaos and it’s hard to keep people safe. Traffic rules help give order; they keep safety and safety is the main concern. In fact, the Texas legislature and the Texas medical board had felt it’s so important that investigational review boards oversee this that there’s special considerations and special protections for organizations in Texas that are doing stem cell work under an investigational review board.
HOST: As we said, there are a lot of questions but one of the frequently asked questions about adult stem cells is why they’re harvested from fat instead of blood.
DR. BILL: Yeah, we get that one all the time and there are a number of reasons, including it’s just less uncomfortable, but the best reason I can illustrate with these candy almonds is, if you just typical blood harvest, you get about 20,000 stem cells. Each of those cells would represent about 10,000 stem cells, and that’s a typical bone marrow harvest. When we do a typical harvest in fat in adults, we get about 25,000,000 about on average so that’s basically each of these little containers has fifty of the almonds, each one represents 10,000. So, we get 25,000,000 as opposed to 20,000. Just so much more volume of stem cells in fat is readily available.
HOST: Another frequently asked question is, “Why use enzymes to process the stem cells after they’re harvested?”
DR. BILL: Well, put your glasses on, Jane. We’re going to see if we can make this one work. Whenever we harvest the cells, we get clumps of fat. Even though it looks like they’re tiny, each clump will have millions of fat cells and, out of a million, one in 20,000 is a stem cell. So, there are a couple of ways of breaking that up. One way is just to mechanically break it up like that and then pick out the stem cells, okay? And that works pretty well but, if the stem cells are damaged from the mechanics, it won’t do the job. So, the other way we do it is we break it up using an enzyme where we can then break it up softly and the stem cells come out and we can get the stem cells out in a more orderly manner and they’re a lot less damaged. Studies are starting to really show that we get more stem cells that are alive from doing the enzymes instead of from doing the mechanical.
HOST: Interesting. What about cost?
DR. BILL: Well, we are doing this patient by patient. We do charge for the work. We’re not funded by a large organization and it’s not covered by insurance because it’s investigational.
HOST: All right, very interesting new research being done. Thank you for coming in and telling us some of the things that you’re doing.
DR. BILL: Thanks for having me.
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