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Stem cells, Notes from “Uncle’ Jim Nelson

(for those who don't know Jim Nelson, he is a long time EFFORTS member and advocate for COPD issues. He has offered to share his discoveries about stem cell research).

The results of a quick and dirty research project on stem cell research studies.....

If I Google "stem cell clinical trials", I get several hundred thousand results...  So, changing to "clinical trials stem cell COPD", I come up with several sites that claim to be experiencing fabulous success in stem cell therapy for COPD patients.  Further study of these sites reveals that they all make a point that their procedures are not approved by the FDA, and that the only verifiable positive results are anecdotal, that is, from the statements of their own patients.  All well and good, if the statements are true, and if the reports of their patients are not just the result of the placebo effect brought on by their desperate hope that the trials did in fact work.

In addition to these sites, there is one from the American Lung Association with quite a bit of information on the possibilities of stem cell therapy.  Included in the ALA site is a link to:   ClinicalTrials.gov which takes me to a listing of the hundreds of clinical trials currently under consideration, recruiting, or underway.  There are also a few that have been completed.  I urge you to take a look at the site.  Once there, I searched for stem cells COPD, and came up with a list of 18 trials in various stages, most of which actually had something to do with COPD.

On the surface, the listing appeared to be just that; the information for various institutions that are seriously looking into the value of stem cells in the treatment of lung disease.  And, hopefully, most of them are legitimate.

So, reading through the list, it appears that there are some trials going on, most of them in the US, having to do with stem cell therapy for COPD.   However, further digging in at least a couple of the sites revealed the following:

One of the companies, on its web site, appears to me to claim that they are presently administering stem cell treatments, and that they have had success in relieving the symptoms and (at least so far), improving the prognosis of COPD patients.  Again to me, that casts a bit of a cloud on the validity of the supposed trial.

Another of the companies talks a lot about various stem cell treatments, but does not mention anything related to COPD.  So far, so good...but then, there it was!  The information that they have a clinic in Mexico that deals in stem cell therapy for COPD.  

Believe me when I say that nothing would make me happier than to discover that someone, somewhere, was having success in healing COPD patients, whether it was from stem cells or from dancing around them dressed in feathers.  I fully realize the desperation of someone with a chronic disease.  I have been there.  However, I totally detest anyone who would take advantage of that desperation to extract money from the patients or their families. 

I have talked to several doctors at several research facilities both here and in England about the state of lung tissue regeneration.  They all agree that we are 10 to 20 years away from being able to use stem cells to grow or regrow human lung tissue.

That being the case, it follows that the "Stem Cell Therapy Clinics" that are popping up in various places in the United States, primarily in states that have a large population of older people, and therefore a larger number of COPD patients, do NOT HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF REGENERATING LUNG TISSUE.

True clinical trials do not charge for their treatments. 

There is a grey area in medical law that allows physicians to prescribe pretty much anything to their patients.  Therefore, if a doctor tells you that reinjecting your own cells will miraculously heal your lungs, or that swinging a dead chicken around your head will help you to breathe better, there is no law that will prevent them from making such prescriptions, and charging you whatever you will stand still for.

The FDA has not done anything to control this activity, and I talked to every medical regulatory agency in Arizona, seeking a way to control these "clinics".  Without exception, they all referred me to either another Arizona agency, or to the FDA.  In other words, these clinics are free to create their incredibly enticing advertisments, to make whatever claims they choose to make, and to charge you a LOT of money for procedures that cannot possibly work, given the state of progress of the science.


Uncle Jim (Nelson)