By David Ebner, Staff Writer
The world will never forget the momentous day when four young men from Liverpool, England, walked onto the stage of the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. The Fab Four strolled onstage, squinting in the glare of the lights and smiling at the squealing fans, and that grainy black and white image became the music history icon of the “British Invasion.”.
Stem cell research appeared on the world stage with much less fanfare. There were no screaming fans or standing ovations when doctors conducted the first stem cell procedure in the form of a bone marrow transplant in 1956. The painstaking hours scientists spent researching and studying cells in laboratories across the world passed unremarked upon in the pages of Life Magazine. Even in 2012, when John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka won a Nobel Prize for their discovery that “mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent,” enthusiasm was limited mostly to the medical community.
The advent of stem cell research may seem inconsequential in comparison to the rise of the Beatles or Elvis Presley, but its impact on the medical industry is nothing less than revolutionary. Although the ethical implications of using embryonic stem cells have a high-profile and controversial history, knowledge of adult stem cells—cells present inside the body of every adult, remains relatively obscure. Adult stem cells live in the blood or bone marrow, and can be extracted and reintroduced into different parts of the body, as needed. Some stem cells can re-specialized to mimic whatever type of cell they are near. For example, when bone marrow stem cells are extracted, isolated and reintroduced to the lungs of a patient with a progressive lung disease, the stem cells have the potential to morph into lung cells. The hope is that the new cells will be disease-free and will promote healing and potentially return lung function. For someone suffering from a debilitating disease, such investigative stem cell therapy could mean the difference between struggling for air and singing “Twist and Shout” in the shower.
Physicians at the Lung Institute (lunginstitute.com) have been performing such procedures since 2013, increasing the quality of life for over 83 percent of the patients they’ve treated as reported by the patients themselves in a recent study. During a stem cell procedure, cells are extracted from the patient’s blood or bone marrow tissue. The cells are then isolated and returned intravenously. This outpatient procedure is completed over three days and is considered minimally invasive. According to the Lung Institute’s Senior Medical Director, Jack Coleman, Jr., M.D., “stem cells are important because they offer an alternative approach. Instead of looking at symptoms simply to make the patient more comfortable, investigative stem cell therapy can potentially target the disease itself, challenging conventional medicine’s fatalistic mindset that there’s nothing more we can do.”
It’s difficult to imagine a medical breakthrough stealing the show from the latest trending celebrity. However, real people have sought these innovative procedures, and some are already seeing a difference in their lives. They may not be screaming like the crazed Beatles fans of the sixties, but the alternative procedure fan base grows every day among people who look to stem cell research for answers.
If you or a loved one suffer from a chronic lung disease, the specialists at the Lung Institute may be able to help. You can contact the Lung Institute at 800-921-4631 or visit lunginstitute.com/Health to find out if you qualify for these new treatments.