By Chris Onuoha
Dr David Ikudayisi, the Managing Director/CEO of Glory Wellness and Regenerative Centre, is the pioneer of regenerative medicine in Nigeria.
In this interview, Ikudayisi speaks on how Nigerians are embracing the new branch of medicine. Excerpts:
How did your background prepare you for a career in medicine?
In my country-of-origin Nigeria, getting into higher education to study medicine required, and arguably now more than before, still requires being excellent academically in the post-secondary examinations. I emerged excellent, which got me admission on merit to study medicine initially at University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria, but eventually then I got into Russia on scholarship to study medicine. In summary, the background of academic excellence paved the way for the medical career.
Tell us the high points of your career.
I will mention five highlights here for now. The first was finding upon my return to Nigeria that a quadriplegic boy (paralyzed from neck down) whom we had treated nine months earlier had regained some ability to move in the interval. The second was the drastic improvement we got in a patient with multiple sclerosis for 18 years, achieved within just weeks of multiple adult stem cell treatment. So remarkable was her improvement that her steroid dosage was in a short time reduced by 75% to the amazement of her neurologist. We treated an 87-year-old who had to be on a wheelchair with arthritis in both her knees. Three months later, she was able to walk unaided. A patient who had lost the ability to speak due to acute stroke regained her speech within 24 hours of treatment. And finally, just mentioning a few, a diabetic patient who we treated regained healthy sugar control without need for drugs and has been able to remain off the drugs for about two years after the treatment.
How new is adult stem cell therapy as a branch of medicine and what got you attracted to it?
The oldest form of adult stem cell therapy is bone marrow transplant which has been applied to blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and white blood cell cancers. The first use of this was 65 years ago for leukemia (a white blood cell cancer).
What are the features that distinguish adult stem cell therapy from conventional medicine?
Adult stem cell therapy comes under the umbrella of cell-based therapy. Human stem cells are the primary therapeutic agents over and against medication and/or surgery as applied by traditional/mainstream medical practice. But we are convinced that adult stem cell therapy is at the corner piece of what will constitute the future of conventional medicine which will, in turn, need to be relegated to a backseat.
What is the success rate of the therapy? Is it 100 percent effective and can it resolve all kinds of ailments, even the common ones?
The question of the success rate of the therapy depends on multiple factors which include but are not limited to the particular type or source of the stem cells, the innate responsiveness of the individuals to be treated, the particular disease being treated, the extent, stage or severity of the disease, the skill or technique of the stem cell physician, the quality of the equipment being used to process the tissues from which the stem cells are to be harvested. Not all ailments are hereby treatable, whether common or rare. As a general rule, treatable ailments are the ones of a degenerative nature.
Being a relatively new branch of medicine, setting up an adult stem cell clinic must be capital intensive. Tell us your experience.
It is indeed capital intensive and, furthermore, caution must be taken to source products and equipment from reliable sources to assure the height of therapeutic efficacy and treatment outcome.
There is the suggestion in some quarters that the procedure is only for elites. How affordable is the therapy? Is it also for the common man?
It is indeed expensive. However, efforts are being made to make more affordable options available while as much as reasonably possible maintaining the quality of treatment. Regardless of social status, health is wealth.
How receptive are Nigerians to adult stem cell therapy. Share your experiences?
It’s been heartening to be able to help people who otherwise had hit the end of their ropes as far as hope for treatment by medical intervention is concerned. Patients in these shoes have been very receptive to this option. As long as their questions are answered, especially regarding safety, many are willing to try out these options, realizing that conventional medicine either has no solution or presents very hard treatment options which they are not willing to explore.
Any known adverse effects?
Decades of research have not yielded adverse effects of considerable concern when using somatic stem cells (also known as adult stem cells). The self-renewal characteristic of adult stem cells is limited, making the lifespan limited. This limitation is what makes adult stem cell therapy safe and hence, there availability in clinical settings today. Also, adult stem cell therapy has no risk of teratoma. I wish I can say the same for other types of stem cell therapy (induced puripotent stem cell therapy and embryonic stem cell therapy). In our experience, we have rarely seen mild effects such as mild headaches for a few minutes, in the case of umbilical cord stem cells. Even children get these and tolerate it perfectly.
How do you feel as a pioneer of adult stem cell therapy in Nigeria?
It’s an honour and great privilege; it must also be seen as a great responsibility to chart a noble and reputable course which will chart a trail of excellent ethical and practice standards. So help me God.
What is the future of the therapy?
As it is now, we see medicine moving inexorably in two complementary and arguably deterministic directions one of which is regenerative medicine (cell-based therapy), the other being gene therapy, another exciting and hope-conferring medical discipline.