Traveling Abroad Offers a Ray of Hope to Those with Auto-Immunity
by Dr. Laura Korman, D.C.
As a practitioner, who has been board certified in nutrition for over 20 years, my passion is to help patients find a root cause resolution to chronic illness through functional medicine and lifestyle modification. Patients with autoimmune (AI) conditions hold a special place in my heart, as I have an AI thyroid condition. I also realize that traditional medicine has limited safe, effective treatment options available, especially for those with serious AI diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes and Lupus.
I have been studying the use of Regenerative Medicine for the past year and a half. After a recent trip to a conference and clinic in Costa Rica, I learned how this type of therapy aids those looking for natural, effective options to help manage their AI conditions. In this article, I will explore what Regenerative Medicine is, what its limitations are currently in the United States, and how patients are benefiting from its use in Central America.
Regenerative Medicine is an exciting progressive field of medicine that involves the use of human cellular tissue products, including stem cells, in order to regenerate damaged or dysfunctional joints, organs, blood vessels, nerves and other systems of the body. Stem cells are responsible for the rapid growth of an infant to reach full adulthood in about 20 years. Stem cells are also heavily involved in healing our injuries, cuts, contusions, sprains, strains and fractures. As we age, these cells become less concentrated and, therefore, less viable or active.
A newborn has one stem cell for every 10,000 cells in their body. By the time a person reaches 50 years of age, they will have only one stem cell for every 400,000 cells. Whereas an 80-year-old will have one stem cell for every 2,000,000 cells. As we age, we slow down, as do our stem cells. A newborn’s stem cell will replicate every 20–24 hours. So after just 31 days, one stem cell will produce one billion stem cells, whereas a 60–65-year-old’s stem cell will take 60 hours to duplicate, and will only produce 400 cells in that same 31 day period. The declining number of stem cells and slowing of their function is called stem cell exhaustion. This is one of the hallmarks of aging.
Some are familiar with the past medicinal use of embryonic or fetal stem cells. This practice is no longer used — in fact, it’s currently illegal due to ethical concerns and the fact that these stem cells were shown to cause serious adverse reactions in the patients who received them. Some patients developed unusual tumors on their bodies, and the fetal stem cells were often rejected by the recipients (similar to having an organ transplant). As a result, they were prescribed anti-rejection drugs.
Now we can safely harvest stem cells from the gelatinous material around the umbilical cord of a healthy, unharmed newborn, then transfer these cells to an adult to regenerate damaged joints or other tissues. Research shows that stem cells derived from the umbilical cord are non-cancerous and immune privileged, which means they are not rejected by the patient's immune system. This field is highly monitored and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Therefore, most of its use is limited to treating osteoarthritis, tendonitis and other joint injuries. It is also used in aesthetics practices for natural rejuvenation and anti-aging.
Autologous stem cells (derived from self) can be extracted directly from the body fat or bone marrow of a person receiving the cell transplant. The limitation of these stem cells, as described above, is that the concentration of stem cells in an adult are low with much less viability than that harvested from an umbilical cord of a healthy newborn. Another downside of using autologous stem cells from belly fat or bone marrow is the inherent risks associated with post surgical pain or infection caused from the extraction procedure.
New advances in Regenerative Medicine are showing stem cells, also known as mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs, to not only help repair and regenerate damaged tissue, but are also to help patients with autoimmune diseases in Central America. After a recent trip to Costa Rica for a Regenerative Medicine Conference, I had the amazing opportunity to visit a clinic where they use concentrated umbilical cord MSCs intravenously to aid patients who suffer from various types of chronic ailments including autoimmune conditions.
This is when a person’s immune system malfunctions and begins to attack self tissue. Some examples include the joints in Rheumatoid Arthritis, the myelin sheath around nerves in Multiple Sclerosis or connective tissue in Lupus. Stem cells can decrease inflammation and modulate or bring balance to an overactive immune system, thereby dampening — or even ceasing — a destructive autoimmune process. This lab meets and exceeds all FDA requirements with the use of meticulous screening and genetic testing on all donors of MSCs before accepting for treatment.
These treatments show promise as natural, safe options to decrease pain, improve function and modulate the immune system of patients who desire an alternative or additional treatment to help manage their autoimmune condition. I will soon be offering educational workshops in my office to further educate my patients and the community about this evolving area of medicine.
Dr. Laura Korman is the lead practitioner at Korman Relief and Wellness Center, located at 16954 Toledo Blade Blvd., Port Charlotte. For more information and to schedule an appointment, call 941-629-6700 or visit DrLauraKorman.com.