Americans Heading To Costa Rica For Stem Cell Treatments

Americans are herding to Costa Rica for stem cell treatments

Americans are herding to Costa Rica for stem cell treatments

The stories are starting to come in … the man with the heart attack, now with a stem cell transplant, his glands can now generate insulin. The Florida parents of 7-year-old, who has autism, are taking him to Costa Rica at the end of this month for adult stem cell treatments.

Success stories have grabbed international media attention, with cable and TV networks jumping on the bandwagon by running stories like “Paralyzed valley woman holds hope in Costa Rica treatment” and “Glenburn boy returns from Costa Rica after having adult stem cell therapy.”

Adding to the hype of stem cell treatment, back in March, 2009 US President Barack Obama issued an executive order that lifted Bush-era restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research, but much of the treatment is still a long way off, experts say. With all this media attention, and America still in the Black Ages, the list of Americans seeking stem cell treatment in Costa Rica has tripled in the last year.

But the media and presidential endorsement of treatments (well at lease to a point) has made doctors in the U.S. nervous for the obvious reasons.

Its common knowledge that overall  Costa Rica’s medical tourism and the use of their  wellness centers has doubled and tripled.  Now the  number of foreigners seeking and undergoing stem cell treatment in Costa Rica for ailments from bone fractures to multiple sclerosis has doubled.  Costa Rican doctors say they are providing these medical tourists with groundbreaking treatments.

But I would not jump on the next plane to Costa Rica, stem cell scientists in the U.S. accuse Costa Rica of offering false hope by pushing techniques that have not been scientifically proven.

But it has not stopped Costa Rican legislators because they are putting the finishing touches on a law to promote and regulate adult stem cell research and treatment across a spectrum of diseases.  Obviously,  this could fuel further debate over techniques that U.S. doctors say have only produced anecdotal success — but it certainly has not stop the flow of stem cell medical tourism.

Americans already make up close to 90 percent of the stem cell patients at CIMA Hospital.  Dr. Fabio Solano — who directs the stem cell institute at San Jose’s CIMA Hospital, one of the country’s leading private hospitals — says his team has treated as many as 400 patients with procedures that involve stem cells.

However in Costa Rica, Catholicism is the state religion, working with human embryos is out of the question. So there is contentious debate around stem cells by prohibiting work with human embryos and instead promoting research on what’s known as “adult” stem cells — derived from tissue including body fat and umbilical blood or tissue.

Like most medical tourism in Costa Rica it is not really regulated by any Medical Institution or FDA, or are doctors subject to outrageous malpractice premiums, the cost for medical treatments, substance abuse, plastic surgery or dental work can be as much as 70% less.

In the case of stem cells treatments for MS in the U.S –  offers from university labs in guinea pig treatments range into the $100,000 to $150,000 –  where in Costa Rica the same treatment can be as low as $10,000.

A December 2008 study by the journal Cell Stem Cell found that international stem cell treatment hovers around an average of $20,000.

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Comments

  1. Don Storment says:

    Looking for adult stem cell treatment for cardiomyopathy.

    Also, arthritis

  2. Thomas Ichim says:

    Some of the scientific papers published with Costa Rica collaborators in stem cell treatments…these are papers with American Universities as coauthors in prestigious medical journals.

    J Transl Med. 2009 Apr 24;7:29. Links
    Non-expanded adipose stromal vascular fraction cell therapy for multiple sclerosis.Riordan NH, Ichim TE, Min WP, Wang H, Solano F, Lara F, Alfaro M, Rodriguez JP, Harman RJ, Patel AN, Murphy MP, Lee RR, Minev B.
    Medistem Inc, San Diego, CA, USA. riordan@medisteminc.com

    The stromal vascular fraction (SVF) of adipose tissue is known to contain mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), T regulatory cells, endothelial precursor cells, preadipocytes, as well as anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages. Safety of autologous adipose tissue implantation is supported by extensive use of this procedure in cosmetic surgery, as well as by ongoing studies using in vitro expanded adipose derived MSC. Equine and canine studies demonstrating anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects of non-expanded SVF cells have yielded promising results. Although non-expanded SVF cells have been used successfully in accelerating healing of Crohn’s fistulas, to our knowledge clinical use of these cells for systemic immune modulation has not been reported. In this communication we discuss the rationale for use of autologous SVF in treatment of multiple sclerosis and describe our experiences with three patients. Based on this rationale and initial experiences, we propose controlled trials of autologous SVF in various inflammatory conditions.

    J Transl Med. 2007 Jun 27;5:30. Links
    Stem cell therapy for autism.Ichim TE, Solano F, Glenn E, Morales F, Smith L, Zabrecky G, Riordan NH.
    Medistem Laboratories Inc, Tempe, Arizona, USA. thomas.ichim@gmail.com

    Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of neurodevelopmental conditions whose incidence is reaching epidemic proportions, afflicting approximately 1 in 166 children. Autistic disorder, or autism is the most common form of ASD. Although several neurophysiological alterations have been associated with autism, immune abnormalities and neural hypoperfusion appear to be broadly consistent. These appear to be causative since correlation of altered inflammatory responses, and hypoperfusion with symptology is reported. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are in late phases of clinical development for treatment of graft versus host disease and Crohn’s Disease, two conditions of immune dysregulation. Cord blood CD34+ cells are known to be potent angiogenic stimulators, having demonstrated positive effects in not only peripheral ischemia, but also in models of cerebral ischemia. Additionally, anecdotal clinical cases have reported responses in autistic children receiving cord blood CD34+ cells. We propose the combined use of MSC and cord blood CD34+cells may be useful in the treatment of autism.

    Reprod Biomed Online. 2008 Jun;16(6):898-905. Links
    Placental mesenchymal and cord blood stem cell therapy for dilated cardiomyopathy.Ichim TE, Solano F, Brenes R, Glenn E, Chang J, Chan K, Riordan NH.
    Medistem Laboratories Inc., 2027 E Cedar Street Suite 102 Tempe, AZ 85281, USA.

    Regenerative treatment of dilated, non-ischaemic cardiomyopathy represents a significant unmet clinical need. Intracoronary administration of autologous bone marrow stem cells has demonstrated positive results in treatment of post-infarct and chronic ischaemic patients. Limitations of this procedure include: invasiveness of bone marrow extraction and cardiac catheterization, and dependence on stem cell populations that are aged and possibly senescent. Here, the use of intravenously administered allogeneic placental matrix derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of dilated cardiomyopathy is discussed. Safety of this cell population has already been established in completed Phase I and II trials; however, to date, clinical implementation for dilated cardiomyopathy has not been reported. Preclinical studies have demonstrated that mesenchymal stem cells: (i) inhibit myocardial inflammation; (ii) inhibit cardiomyocyte apoptosis; (iii) stimulate angiogenesis; and (iv) display therapeutic activity in models of dilated cardiomyopathy. Clinical studies have demonstrated the ability of mesenchymal stem cells to inhibit post-infarct remodelling, as well as potently block inflammatory processes in graft versus host and Crohn disease. Presented here is case report of a patient with dilated cardiomyopathy treated with intravenous allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells and expanded umbilical cord blood CD34 cells who underwent a profound clinical improvement.

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