The stem-cell connection.(healing options)
Category Cord Blood Stem Cells
Posted on 10/30/2006 10:42:02 AM

Only recently emerging on our healing horizon, experts predict stem cells will become the body's therapeutic miracle workers, regenerating tissues and organs damaged by disease, trauma, or aging. Once thought to be relatively rare or present only in unique tissues, these cells have a ubiquitous presence and regenerative role throughout the body, and may represent a common-denominator mechanism by which many therapies mediate their healing effects.

Because pulling together seemingly disparate pieces of the puzzle catalyzes progress, this column discusses the influence of various previously discussed therapies on stem-cell expression. Conceivably, some could augment the effectiveness of stem-cell programs emerging throughout the world.

Spinal--cord Injury (SCI)

A decade after Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) funded some of the first SCI stem-cell research, it is astonishing to see the many function-restoring, stem-cell transplantation programs emerging worldwide, ranging from those with reasonably strong scientific foundations to questionable, profit-motivated endeavors. In spite of poorly understood risks and benefits, the influence of these programs will continue to grow in the SCI global community. (For example, one developed in India will be discussed in an upcoming PN.)

Stem-cell transplantation procedures and results vary substantially among programs. Cells from numerous sources (e.g., blood, bone marrow, olfactory tissue, fetal tissue, etc.) have been transplanted via several routes, including into the spinal cord or fluid, intravenously, or intramuscularly. Donor cells are not selected based on the theoretical best source or regenerative potential but rather their isolation ease, such as concentrating blood stem cells. Likewise, it's a lot easier and safer, but perhaps not as effective, to inject cells into a muscle, blood, or spinal fluid than surgically accessing the spinal cord.

In addition, endogenous stem cells may play a healing role in acute injury:. For example, Drs. Charles Tator and A.J. Mothe (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) have carried out studies in rats suggesting injury itself mobilizes dormant spinal-cord stem cells into action. Perhaps some of the following therapy summaries could amplify this healing response. (For more information, see resources listed at the end of this article.)


In traditional Chinese medicine, qi, a lifeforce energy, permeates all living things through meridian channels punctuated by acupuncture points. Stimulating these points promotes health- and regeneration-enhancing qi flow.

Scientists have shown acupuncture influences neuronal stem-cell expression in several animal models of neurological disorders. Because of such suggestive studies, as well as others indicating acupuncture can restore some function in acute and chronic human SCI, acupuncture has been incorporated into a number of SCI stem-cell programs.

According to Harvard University's Dr. Charles Shang, the acupuncture system and stem cells are closely linked through an "organizing center network" composed of under-differentiated, electromagnetically sensitive cells. Confirmed by published studies, this network is created early in embryogenesis before the formation of other body systems (e.g., spinal cord) and has the potential to influence these later-formed systems throughout life. Under this model, acupuncture has extensive growth-control effects and can trigger network stem cells into action.

As a crude analogy, view the acupuncture-sensitive "organizing center network" as a behind-the-lines military general who is ready to send in "green" reserve troops (i.e., stem cells) who will evolve into front-line combatants and replace those who have fallen from the attacks of disease, trauma, and aging. In the case of transplanted stem cells, Shang speculates they can be recruited into a new network for repair and regeneration.


Evidence indicates laser therapy promotes functional recovery after SCI. For example, Dr. Kimberly Byrnes et al. (Washington, D.C.) demonstrated laser energy alters gene expression in rats with SCI and in cells being transplanted into the injured cord. Dr. Semion Rochkind (Israel) also has shown functional recovery in rats with SCI was maximized when embryonic cell transplantation was followed with laser irradiation.

This research is particularly relevant because people with SCI have attempted to maximize restored function after stem-cell transplantation using laser-based therapy, especially with the Laserpuncture program developed by France's Albert Bohbot ( ). Dr. Emilio Jacques (Mexico) has also used laser and acupuncture therapies after transplanting stem cells into the injury site.

Hyperbaric Oxygen

With hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy; patients are placed in chambers pressurized at 2-3 atmospheres containing up to 100% oxygen. Studies suggest HBO is beneficial for treating a vari