Published Fri 16 Mar, 2018 – Sydney Morning Herald
Stem cells are like the ‘‘mother cells’’ of every tissue in the body and may repair any cell including bone, skin, cartilage, nerve and corneal cells.
But do they really work as rehabilitative and regenerative procedures?
In Australia, stem cell research has come under fire from many medical professionals who say that while treatment holds promise, stem cell use needs to be better proven in legitimate and ethics-approved clinical trials before being offered to the public.
The University of Bristol in the United Kingdom is working on using stem cells to reproduce an ‘‘unlimited supply’’ of blood, which may be lifesaving for people with rare blood types or when blood supply is low.
There are countless other applications.
Dr Ralph Bright, from Sydney’s Macquarie Stem Cells, says the treatment is already commonly used in Australia for arthritis pain, as published in the Journal of Biomedical Science in 2017.
‘‘It is the future. And this treatment is applicable for patients of all ages,’’ he says. ‘‘So far, we have treated patients as old as 94.
‘‘Patients can only have one or two joint replacements in their lifetime. Current stem cell research shows that this may be completely avoidable for some patients.’’
Dr Bright says an International Journal of Research Orthopaedics study of 503 patients who required total joint replacement but trialled stem cell therapy first, found just four patients required joint replacement after the study follow-up period.
Macquarie Stem Cells will be involved in a placebo-controlled clinical trial of stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis with Professor Ian Harris of the University of NSW this year, with the results to be released in 2019.
What about safety? A five-hour stem cell procedure for arthritis involves a twilight sedation and sees fat taken from the abdomen, thighs or buttocks, which is then separated and injected into the joint on the same day.
‘‘However, the processes by which the cells are acquired and then reintroduced into the body is a surgical procedure and all the standard risks of surgery still apply,’’ says Dr Bright.
At a ballpark $9000, with no Medicare or health insurance rebate, stem cell therapy carries a hefty price tag. Will patients get their money back if it fails?
‘‘No one demands their money back from a failed heart procedure or a joint procedure,’’ says Dr Bright.
‘‘Similarly, stem cell therapy is a medical procedure with no refunds. Most patients report a substantial improvement with only about 3 per cent saying the treatment was ineffective.
‘‘In contrast, 2016 statistics revealed about 7 per cent of primary knee joint replacements failed and required revision.’’
REF: Todayspaper.smedia.com.au. (2018). Clinical trial offers hope for arthritis patients – Sydney Morning Herald, 3/16/2018. [online] Available at: http://todayspaper.smedia.com.au/smh/shared/ShowArticle.aspx?doc=SMH%2F2018%2F03%2F16&entity=Ar04101&sk=648587CA&mode=text [Accessed 16 Mar. 2018].
TAGS: Dr. Ralph Bright, Macquarie Stem Cells, Treating Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis and Stem Cells, Stem Cell Therapy, Stem Cells Sydney Morning Herald, Osteoarthritis Sydney Morning Herald