Monday, 18 July 2016

Stem Cell Treatments

Image: dog with stethoscope.  Text: Trust me, I'm qualified to perform this procedure
lupus.cheezburger.com
In the news today, a coroner has blamed some dodgy stem cell treatment for a woman's death.

Her treatment, and the treatment being offered for many other conditions currently, was done by a plastic surgeon, removing fat stem cells and re-injecting them.

There can be some confusion caused here.  There is actually legitimate research into stem cell treatments for all kinds of conditions (including lupus) happening now.  This research is at very early stages, and there's no way yet to know if it will prove a viable treatment in the long term.

The research for lupus is looking at stem cell transplants. This would effectively require killing and replacing part of the immune system.

It would not be done by a plastic surgeon.

Once killing the immune system is involved, it becomes a very specialist, and very dangerous medical procedure.


From my years as a hospital chaplain, I can tell you a little about what happens to bone marrow transplant patients (who also need to have a major part of their immune system killed.)  They spend a minimum of a fortnight in an isolation room of a specialist hospital ward, waiting for their immune systems to rebuild following the transplant.  In this time their lives are at serious risk - either from infection (if someone doesn't follow proper handwashing/gown/glove/mask protocol in entering the room, or enters the room if they have a cold or other infection), and from the risk of their bodies rejecting the donor bone marrow (graft verses host) which can be fatal.

That's the kind of thing most likely to happen if stem cell transplants become an actual treatment for lupus.  It would not be something anyone would take lightly, and not something that could be done at a day clinic, or by a surgeon who wasn't a specialist in the field.





References:

ABC Background Briefing: Hallmarks of 'quack medicine' in fatal stem cell treatment, coroner finds http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/hallmarks-of-quack-medicine-in-fatal-stem-cell-treatment/7630288

Lupus Foundation of America: Stem cells and lupus research http://www.lupus.org/research/stem-cells-and-lupus-research

WebMD: Stem cell transplant for lupus topic overview http://www.webmd.com/lupus/tc/stem-cell-transplant-for-lupus-topic-overview


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