Cell therapy promotes physical regeneration through the injection of healthy cellular material into the body. It is used to stimulate healing, counteract the effects of ageing and treat a variety of degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, Parkinson's disease, atherosclerosis and cancer. Although not approved in the United States, cell therapy is used throughout Europe and in many countries worldwide.
Cell therapy seeks to reverse the ravages of degenerative disease by injecting healthy animal cells (or cell extracts) into the patient's bloodstream. A variety of claims have been made for the treatments, which achieved considerable popularity among the rich and famous during the mid-20th century. The injections have been promoted as a means to improve overall health, boost the immune system, enhance vitality, counteract the effects of ageing, cure impotence, stimulate healing, relieve arthritis, reverse Parkinson's disease, and even fight cancer. They have also been used to treat painful menstruation, infertility, herpes, prostate problems, bronchial disorders, epilepsy, hardening of the arteries, bladder infections, skin problems, hepatitis, heart problems, circulatory disorders, and menopause. Unfortunately, despite numerous testimonials, there are no studies verifying cell therapy's purposed beneficial effects, and the treatments have been banned in the United States since 1985 due to the danger of infections and allergic reactions. Unlike blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants, which are carefully matched to the recipient, animal-cell injections can trigger serious immune rejection reactions. One highly publicized achievement of cell therapy-the alleviation of Down's syndrome-has been conclusively disproven. In clinical trials, children receiving cell therapy showed no improvement in mental ability.
Procedure of Treatment
The cells used in this type of therapy are usually taken from unborn sheep or pigs. In its original form (pioneered by Swiss physician Paul Niehans in the 1930s), the therapy called for live cells, which were prepared for injection by finely mincing the animals' tissues or glands and mixing them with a special saline solution. The injections were typically made within one hour of the donor animal's death to ensure that the cells of the living material into toxic substances. Today, however, therapists are m ore likely to use freeze-dried cells or antibodies produced from the cells. These preparations are said to offer the same benefits as live-cell therapy with less danger of infection or immune reactions. The newer forms of treatment are also less costly. Prior to treatment, the therapist will probably give you a physical exam and take a health history to determine whether cell therapy is appropriate. (If a specific organ or gland is the target of the treatment, it must retain enough vitality to respond to stimulation.) The therapist will then give a test injection to make sure you won't suffer an allergic reaction. If any sensitivity is detected, additional injections will be cancelled and you'll be advised to seek another form of treatment. A variety of injections is available. The preparations most commonly employed today by the leading practitioners in the field include the following:
(a) A Combination of Various Cell Types:
These injections are used primarily for revitalization purposes. The patient is injected with four types of cells - pituitary, liver, connective tissue and male or female reproductive glands - plus a fifth type selected according to the patient's specific need. For example, if the patient has liver problems, liver cells will be included in the preparation.
(b) Whole Embryo Ultrafiltrate Injection:
This type of injection is intended to stimulate connective tissues and muscles, increase fluid content in the tissues and retard aging. The preparation contains material from all areas of the embryo, and is therefore considered effective for the whole body. As with the combination injections, if a patient is experiencing problems in a particular area, such as liver or kidney, the injections can be supplemented with cells from those organs as well.
(c) Therapeutic Immunology (Antibody Injections):
This more sophisticated variation of the treatments relies on antibodies rather than the cells themselves. The injections are produced by administering the cells to an animal, whose immune system then manufactures antibodies in response. These antibodies are then harvested from the animal's blood, purified and administered to the patient in much the same way that shots of gamma globulin are given to boost immunity. Such use of antibodies is actually one of the hottest research areas in medicine today. Antibodies produced by genetic engineering are being used experimentally to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Several products are already under FDA review. Cell therapists who use antibody preparations claim they have no side-effects. To enhance effectiveness and prevent potential reactions, the antibodies are administered via both injection and suppository in low doses over a period of several weeks or months. Cell extracts containing ribonucleic acid, the material that transmits genetic information from the DNA, are often added to the antibodies to enhance the effectiveness of therapy.
(d) Bio-Nutritional Therapy:
These treatments offer a potpourri of cells, cell extracts, and antibodies combines with various nutrients and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound that stores and transfers energy within cells and is thought to promote cellular and tissue regeneration. Practitioners typically administer this preparation either under the tongue or through the nasal or rectal passage, where it is quickly absorbed.
Treatment Time: For each method discussed, patients typically receive two to five doses per session.
I Varies according to the method employed and the body's response; some cases may require only one session, while other patients may undergo additional sessions for a period of six months, one year, or perhaps up to two years.
Traditional cell therapy is founded on the belief that, when injected into a human patient, certain animal fetal cells will automatically travel to the same organ from which they were procured and revitalize its activity. For example, it is thought that fetal liver cells introduced into the human body will naturally migrate to the host liver and stimulate regeneration; kidney cells will migrate to the kidney, and so forth. The newer, antibody form of therapy relies less on regeneration of specific organs and more on general stimulation of the immune system. Depending upon how the treatment is administered and for what condition, the benefits of cell therapy are sometimes reported to appear in as little as 36 hours, as in the case of a hepatitis patient said to have experienced almost immediate rejuvenation after a liver cell injection. However, most recoveries take four to six months, and proponents say that the overall long-term healing process can take several years, as the body begins to accept the transplanted cells, resumes normal activity, slowly rebuilds stamina and increases blood supply.
Who Should Avoid This Therapy?
Cell therapy is not recommended for those with kidney disease, liver failure, or acute infections and inflammatory diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the large intestine and rectum. However, this may not necessarily apply to the genetically engineered antibody treatments currently under investigation in the United States. These products are being tested for use in patients who do, in fact, have ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases, particularly Crohn's disease. Of course, patients who show an allergic reaction to a test injection during the screening process should not receive treatments.
There are a number of potential side-effects of which individuals considering this therapy should be aware. Any type of cell therapy is likely to produce fatigue, typically from the time of injection to as much as two weeks afterwards. Allergic reactions are also quite possible. With live cell therapy, there is a distinct danger that the body's immune system will reject the material, as it does an organ transplant. Among the signs of rejection is high fever.