By David Ikudayisi
Many of the ailments afflicting humanity have medications. And that is why human beings can survive in the face of some of the ailments that sometimes can be deadly. Poor sex may not be deadly. It can only limit the victim’s degree of sexual pleasure. But diabetes and high blood pressure, among others, can prove to be fatal if improperly handled. One of the most recent recipes for tackling some of these ailments is regenerative medicine and it involves the use of stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP).
First of all, it is very important to understand that there are two main types of stem cells – embryonic stem (ES) cells and adult stem cells. The former involves using embryos as source of cells while the latter involves using cells harvested from an individual or adult. Other types, such as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), are produced in the lab by reprogramming adult cells to express embryonic stem cells characteristics.
The type of stem cell therapy that we are talking about here is the adult stem cell therapy, and this uses a patient’s own body fat or bone marrow as the source of stem cells, unlike the controversial embryonic stem cell therapy. Regenerative medicine aims to restore normal function by repairing or replacing damaged or malfunctioning cells and tissues in patients who have lost tissue or organ function due to age, disease or congenital defects. With PRP therapy, the growth factors in the blood activate the healing process at a faster rate.
And with adult stem cell therapy, the stem cells in adult fat/bone marrow can differentiate into any tissue where they find themselves. Adult stem cell therapy is new in Nigeria but the Nigerian doctors are well aware of the use of bone marrow transplant for blood disease called leukemia, and, in the past, PRP therapy has been used in at least one of our teaching hospitals in Lagos, and some doctors in Nigeria are now using the therapy. PRP therapy is very popular amongst orthopedic doctors in Nigeria, but there are still drawbacks due to the cost and logistics for the state- of-the-art technology, and affordability by patients. Meanwhile, for adult stem cell therapy, it is new in Nigeria, but not in Europe, USA or India.
One ailment too many
The benefits of adult stem cell therapy are enormous, and there is much more to be discovered. The basic way to understand who will benefit is simply knowing that if there is need to repair and/regenerate any part of the human tissue/organ, adult stem cell therapy with/without PRP therapy may be an option. An exception is the treatment of cancer. Meanwhile, adult stem cell therapy can be used to shrink prostate and brain cancer the same day the stem cells are harvested from the patient, but not for the rest of the cancers without first doing tissue engineering of the stem cells in research laboratories.
Another exception is sickle cell anaemia treatment, which requires stem cells transplant from another person unlike adult stem cell therapy because, in adult stem cell therapy, the stem cells are taken from the same patient that will be the recipient of the stem cells and all this is done the same day and in the presence of the patient.
For some of the common treatable ailments, they are in two categories: Local and systemic applications. Under local applications, you have ailments such as multiple joint pain, back pain, meniscal tears, ligament tears, avascular necrosis of the hip joints, facet arthropathy, plantar fasciitis, post-surgical hip pain, chronic non-healing wounds, dental procedures, hair thinning, erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, female urinary incontinence and cosmetic/aesthetic applications (vampire facial, vampire facelift, vampire breast and nipple lift).
The ailments treatable under systemic applications include diabetes, hypertension, aging (generalized treatment), fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic kidney disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack (myocardial infarction), stroke, brain injury, Alzheimer’s Disease, autism, spinal cord injury, leukemia, COPD (lung disease), Crohn’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and infertility, etc. As for the Infertility treatment, it increases the chances of becoming fertile and/or the success rate of In vitro fertilization (IVF).
MDCN regulates all practices of medicine in Nigeria. Although adult stem cell therapy may be new, PRP therapy is not new as it is common among doctors in Nigeria. Embryonic stem cell is not being practiced in Nigeria to the best of my knowledge, and that is not what we are currently talking about anyway. Also, I am not aware of any research going on or being conducted by the Nigerian government or a hospital about induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) therapy.
The stem cell treatment we are talking about is autologous, i.e. taken from the same patient that will be the recipient. Therefore, there is no risk of rejection of the transplant. Let me also say that the PRP in the PRP therapy has antimicrobial properties.
Challenges introducing procedure
Adult cell therapy is relatively new in Nigeria. Unfortunately, and unlike in the USA, most Nigerians do not believe in preventive medicine. They only go to doctors when it is almost too late or at the precarious stage of their conditions. I do not blame them because the main reason of delaying seeking health care is the associated financial cost. I hope that, one day, we will get to that level of health care system that is available in developed countries.
We are just trying to create awareness on regenerative medicine in Nigeria. Nigerians keep travelling to India to get some of the procedures done including the ones involving adult stem cell therapy. It will be great if many of the Nigerian doctors in USA, U.K. and other advanced countries, who practice regenerative medicine, will consider bringing their practice and knowledge home for the larger population of Nigerians to also benefit. I am not asking them to do pro bono because I understand the cost implication of my request, but, at least, let us start from somewhere.
Nigeria too can become a center for medical tourism in Africa because of regenerative medicine. There is a future for Nigeria in the medical world. For example, open heart surgery was performed in 2015 at Babcock University, and there are some world class Intensive Care Units in Nigeria that I am personally aware of.
Why should anybody opt for stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is NOT for everyone. Adult stem cell Therapy can reverse the symptoms of some diseases, it aims at regenerating and/or repairing the damaged tissue in the body which conventional treatment does not do. There is limited life span for surgical and other procedures; there is a limitation for surgery for spinal problems. For example, not everyone with bad knee joint wants to go for knee surgery, if it is treatable by another means, especially if the patient prefers to use his own body to heal himself.
Conventional treatment does not last as long as the effect of adult stem cell therapy or PRP therapy in conditions/ailments where regenerative medicine is currently applicable and effective. Intravenous application of adult adipose (fat) stem cell therapy is also good for anti-aging. Not everyone wants to take pain medication on daily basis if that can be avoided. There are situations where conventional medicine has no suitable answers.
For example, no one time or single dose medication for hair thinning, no medication can regenerate kidney cells to prevent them from deteriorating, no medication for female sexual dysfunction affecting women, no medication reverses the symptoms in patients with severe multiple sclerosis as of today, just to mention a few.
Due to its relative newness like any other new therapy or drug or procedure, it is expensive all over the world, regardless of where it is done. But I expect it to be affordable for all and sundry in future.
Where it can be procured
There are centers in Ikeja GRA, Lekki, Ikoyi, Abuja. I believe there may be more where patients can be treated using adult stem cells and PRP therapy without having to travel abroad.
•Ikudayisi is of Glory Wellness and Regenerative Centre. The centre can be reached via email@example.com.