Only recently emerging on our healing horizon,
experts predict that 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 discussion summarizes the influence
of various adjunct therapies on stem-cell expression. Conceivably, some
could augment the effectiveness of the many stem-cell programs emerging
throughout the world discussed elsewhere on this site.
Stem-cell transplantation procedures and results vary
substantially between 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 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 (Neuroscience
131, 2005) have carried out studies in rats suggesting that that injury
itself mobilizes dormant spinal-cord stem-cells into action. Perhaps, some
of the therapies discussed below could amplify this healing response.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that a
life-force energy qi permeates all living things through meridian
channels punctuated by acupuncture points. As a rough analogy, view the
meridians as a pipeline through which the energy flows, the acupuncture
points as periodically placed, flow-controlling valves, and the
acupuncture needles as the socket wrench that opens the valves.
Stimulating these points can promote health- and regeneration-enhancing
In his book “Life Force, The Scientific Basis,”
physicist Dr. Claude Swanson reviews the science that supports this
ancient healing tradition. For example, studies have shown that
acupuncture points and meridians do, indeed, have anatomical and
physiological correlates. For example, acupuncture points correspond to
small (~ 1 mm) skin areas of greatly reduced electrical resistance. The
meridian pathways closely match up to “Bonghan ducts,” which contain an
abundance of biophoton-emitting DNA (perhaps one reflection of qi
energy). Swanson states that a key component contained within these
ducts “may be undifferentiated cells (adult stem cells) which flow to
regions of growth and injury where they specialize into the needed type
of cell, and provide the building blocks for tissue repair.”
As discussed elsewhere, studies indicate that
acupuncture may restore some function after SCI through a variety of
physiological mechanisms. Interestingly, studies have demonstrated that
acupuncture influences stem-cell expression in animal models of several
neurological disorders, including SCI:
Based on studies in rats with completely transected
spinal cord, Dr Y. Ding and colleagues concluded that electroacupuncture
promotes the survival and differentiation of transplanted stem cells.
Stem-cell transplantation combined with electroacupuncture “could
promote axonal regeneration and partial locomotor recovery in the
transected spinal cord in rats and indicate a promising avenue of spinal
cord injury” treatment.
The same investigators concluded that 1)
electroacupuncture promotes the differentiation of stem cells and
regeneration of nerve fibers in the injured spinal cord through the
induction of neural growth factors, and 2) the combination of
electroacupuncture and stem-cell transplantation can improve partial
function of paralyzed hind limbs.
Dr. Z. Sun et al demonstrated that treatment with
electroacupuncture combined with bone-marrow-derived stem-cell
transplantation restored more function than either treatment by itself.
The investigators attributed this improved outcome to the enhanced
differentiation of the transplanted bone marrow-derived stem-cells into
neuronal stem cells.
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. 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’ general ready to send
in “green” reserve troops (i.e., stem cells) who will evolve into the
front-line combatants replacing those who have fallen from the attacks
of disease, trauma, and aging. In the case of transplanted stem
cells, Shang speculates that they can be recruited into a new network
for repair and regeneration.
Evidence indicates that laser therapy promotes
functional recovery after SCI. For example, Dr. Kimberly Byrnes et al
(Washington, DC) demonstrated that 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 that
functional recovery in rats with SCI was maximized when embryonic cell
transplantation was followed with laser irradiation.
This research is
particularly relevant because individuals 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 therapy after transplanting stem cells
into the injury site.
Bohbot has treated
numerous individuals with SCI, who have been the transplantation
recipients of a variety of cell types from different programs throughout
the world. In a recent article, Bohbot evaluated the impact of
Laserpuncture on electromyographic parameters of three individuals with
SCI who underwent OEC transplantation. Results suggested that the
Laserpuncture/cell-transplantation-combination therapy restored some
voluntary muscle activity.
oxygen (HBO) therapy, patients are put in chambers pressurized at 2-3
atmospheres containing up to 100% oxygen. Studies suggest that HBO is
beneficial for treating a variety of neurological disorders in which
blood-flow-related oxygenation is compromised, including acute and
perhaps chronic SCI. The premise is that HBO will force oxygen into
injured oxygen-deprived CNS tissue. Numerous animal studies suggest that
HBO influences the expression of stem cells, including 1) promoting
differentiation and proliferation into neurons, 2) enhancing migration
to areas of injury, 3) suppressing stem-cell apoptosis, and 4) inducing
stem-cell growth factors Dr. Stephen Thom et al (USA) has shown that HBO
stimulates the bone-marrow production of stem cells. Specifically, stem
cells doubled in the circulation of humans after a single two-hour,
two-atmosphere HBO session, and after 20 treatments, increased
Dr. Harry Goldsmith (Reno, Nevada) has developed
surgical procedures for various CNS disorders that use the omentum, a
physiologically dynamic tissue that hangs like an apron over the
intestines and lower abdomen area (insert link). For SCI, the omentum is
surgically tailored to create a pedicle of sufficient length and intact
circulation so it can be attached to the cord’s injury site (like cutting
a square handkerchief into a long necktie). Dr. Ignacio García-Gómez et al
(Spain) have shown that human omentum contains stem cells, which
synthesize key, blood-flow-enhancing growth factors when transplanted.
EMF reduces neurological damage after acute SCI. For
example, Dr. Wise Young (Piscataway, NJ)
reported that the majority of EMF-treated cats with SCI were walking four
months after injury compared to none in the control group (insert link).
Pilot studies (Poland) suggested that EMF greatly improved neurological
outcomes in patients with acute SCI (insert link). Based on these
possibilities, several patients who have had stem-cell-containing tissue
implanted into their injured cord followed the procedure with EMF therapy.
that EMF influences stem-cell proliferation and differentiation. For
shown that a time-varying electromagnetic field can “control the
proliferative rate, directional attitude, and molecular genetic
expression of normal human neural progenitor cells…” In another
example, Dr. N. Nakamichi and colleagues (Japan) have demonstrated that
“sustained static magnetism could suppress proliferation for self
renewal and facilitate differentiation into neurons” through turning on
certain genes by progenitor cells in fetal rat brain.”
simply stated, this research suggests that EMF has the potential to be
the steering wheel directing the stem or progenitor cells to the desired
elsewhwere, several traditional-Chinese-medicine and Ayurvedic herbs
possess neuroprotective potential, including Ginkgo biloba, Buyang
Huanwu Decoction, Chinese skullcap, Ashwagandha, and Mimosa pudica.
Research suggests that several commonly consumed herbal supplements
stimulate stem cells. For example, 1) consuming blue-green algae
increases the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into
the blood by 25-30% for several hours; 2) ginseng stimulates
proliferation of brain stem cells involved in memory; and 3) Buyang
Huanwu Decoction enhances the outgrowth and differentiation of neurites
on neuronal stem cells.
A little-known therapy,
inert-gas treatment builds up the electromagnetic energy fields possessed
by all living things, thereby enhancing regenerative potential. Because
transplantable stem-cells are living and possess energy fields, some
suggest that exposing them to inert-gas energy while in culture will
beef-up their physiological robustness and viability before
Carlos Lima and colleagues (Portugal) have shown that functional
improvements after the transplantation of stem-cell-containing olfactory
tissue into the injured spinal cord are dependent on the nature of
post-transplantation physical rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation was undertaken at three
centers - one center using robotic bodyweight-supported treadmill
training, and the other two using assisted over-ground-walking training
with weight bearing on the hips and feet to promote sensory and
muscle-movement feedback. Results indicated that the latter approach was
much more effective in promoting functional improvement after
As described later,
hypothermic cooling has been
employed in an attempt to preserve neurological function after injury.
Preliminary evidence from animal studies suggests that such cooling may
augment the effectiveness of stem-cell transplantation. Specifically,
rats whose spinal cords were cut in half were divided into three groups:
1) untreated controls, 2) rats treated with bone-marrow-derived stem
cells, and 3) stem-cell- and hypothermic-treated rats. The rats in the
third group recovered the most function and had the most tissue
Psychoneuroimmunology is a highfalutin
scientific term to describe how our emotions, attitudes, and
consciousness influence health. From a holistic mind-body-spirit view,
the most powerful healing comes from adopting a health-enhancing
consciousness, whose overarching influence transforms the physical. Long
before stem cells became a blip on modern science’s radar, the influence
of consciousness on their expression was discussed in the Life and
Teachings of the Masters of the Far East (Baird Spalding):
1) “As the cell divides
and creates a new cell, our thought is implanted upon it…In the
first cell, all is perfect. That cell was first known as the Christ
cell.” (i.e., the anointed cell) “It is always just as young as ever it
was. It never takes on old age. It is the primal spark of life. When we
implant in it our thoughts of limitation or old age, or any condition
outside of perfection, the body responds. Cells born from the first cell
take on its image. Originally it is the image and likeness of God. It is
perfect in every way. But it becomes the form we carry in our
minds…if we carry the image of perfection always, what will it do for
these cells? It will build perfection.” (Vol. 6, Page 78)
2) “The moment a cell
divides itself from the parent cell, and the instant before it divides
itself, it takes on the exact image of the parent. As it goes out, it
comes under the influence of this imperfection that we think for
ourselves. What happens? We see the vibrations of the cell lowered,
and in some instances when it attaches itself to the organ where it
belongs, it is a dead thing…The very thought influence of
imperfection influences that cell until it dies. The vibrations go
so low that the dynamic influence flows out.” (Vol. 6, Page 92)
Scientists have proposed many physiological
mechanisms by which emotions, attitudes, and overall consciousness can
potentially transform our health and influence stem cells. For example,
Dr. Bruce Lipton hypothesizes that our consciousness affects DNA
expression through influencing proteins embedded in our cell membranes.
As shown in Menninger Clinic experiments,
individuals are able to shift consciousness in a way that can alter the
body’s electromagnetic dynamics. Lipton hypothesizes that this
alteration changes the physical configuration of membrane proteins, in
turn, affecting communication between the outside and inside of cells.
Roughly speaking, this consciousness-driven energy is like a radio
signal triggering the garage door to open. This opening initiates a
cascade of physiological events which regulate gene expression and, in
turn, cell fate, potentially in a life-enhancing direction.
Scientists, indeed, have shown that the subtlest of
energies can affect stem-cell expression or viability. For example,
these cells are exceptionally sensitive to cosmic radiation.
indicate that commonly used chemotherapy agents are more toxic to
neuronal stem and progenitor cells than the cancer cells it targets
(Dietrich J, et al. J Biol, 5(7), 2006). Due to this toxicity,
chemotherapy is associated with many adverse, long-term neurological
consequences. Given the incidence of cancer, it is estimated that more
people suffer from chemotherapy-related neurological damage than many of
the more widely recognized neurological disorders.
modalities in our healing spectrum can synergistically work together to
enhance health if we are open-minded enough to consider the possibilities.
If, for example, the world’s most ancient healing tradition, acupuncture,
can influence the most state-of-the-art therapy (i.e., stem cells), we
should pay attention, or the promising therapeutic potential of this
emerging technology may be compromised.
Although we only
have a tip-of-the-iceberg understanding of them, stem cells will play an
ever-growing role in our efforts to restore function after SCI. As our
knowledge increases, ideally, we will be able to take advantage of various
adjunct therapies to maximize the healing potential of both transplanted
stem cells and those endogenously produced from within. From conception
until death, they are the cells of renewal and regeneration through which
our healing energies are mediated.