This blog post is written by Ursula. She has been one of my clients for a couple of years now and I have seen her go from strength to strength with the use of natural therapies and stem cell treatment. She is not a doctor but a true lupus battler and one who has gone to extraordinary lengths in an attempt to get her life back! In this blog post Ursula provides us with a deep insight into the stem cell procedure she had done and some background information around what is involved in this type of therapy.
If you would like to see my interview with Ursula you can watch that HERE
What are mesenchymal stem cells:
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an example of tissue or ‘adult’ stem cells. They are ‘multipotent’, meaning they can produce more than one type of specialized cell of the body. MSCs make the different specialized cells found in the skeletal tissues. For example, they can differentiate − or specialize − into cartilage cells (chondrocytes), bone cells (osteoblasts) and fat cells (adipocytes) etc. These specialized cells each have their own characteristic shapes, structures and functions, and each belongs in a particular tissue. MSCs were originally found in the bone marrow. There have since been many claims that they also exist in a wide variety of other tissues, such as umbilical cord blood, adipose (fat) tissue and muscle, which makes them a great option for donor cells when a patient is unable to use their own bone marrow stem cells for healing. The bone marrow contains many different types of cells. Among them are blood stem cells (also called hematopoietic stem cells; HSCs) and a variety of different types of cells belonging to a group called ‘mesenchymal’ cells. Only about 0.001-0.01% of the cells in the bone marrow are mesenchymal stem cells.
In my particular S.L.E case, I was lucky enough to be able to use my own MSC’s which were harvested by bone marrow aspiration from the Tibia of my leg. I was able to do this process to heal myself naturally with my own tissue, because my Lupus had not yet attacked my bone marrow tissue. However, had this been the case, there were many donor cell options available to me and the great thing about it was, by using MSC’s the donor cells did NOT have to be a match, as there is no fear of rejection in a patient.
What type of health problems can MSC’s be used for:
Bone and cartilage repair
The ability of MSCs to differentiate into bone cells called osteoblasts has led to their use in early clinical trials investigating the safety of potential bone repair methods. These studies are looking at possible treatments for localized skeletal defects (damage at a particular place in the bone). Other research is focused on using MSCs to repair cartilage. Cartilage covers the ends of bones and allows one bone to slide over another at the joints. It can be damaged by a sudden injury like a fall, or over a long period by a condition like osteoarthritis, a very painful disease of the joints. Cartilage does not repair itself well after damage, however because MSCs can differentiate into cartilage cells called chondrocytes, MSCs can be injected into patients to repair and maintain the cartilage in their joints. The transplanted MSCs releases substances that tells the patient’s own cells to repair the damage.
Heart and blood vessel repair
MSCs can promote formation of new blood vessels in a process called neovascularisation. MSCs do not make new blood vessel cells themselves, but they may help with neovascularisation in a number of ways. For example, they may release proteins that stimulate the growth of other cells called endothelial precursors – cells that will develop to form the inner layer of blood vessels. They may also “guide” the assembly of new blood vessels from preexisting endothelial cells (those that line the blood vessel). Such studies on animals have led researchers to hope that MSCs may provide a way to repair the blood vessel damage linked to heart attacks or diseases such as critical limb ischaemia.
Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases
Several claims have been made that MSCs are able to avoid detection by the immune system and can be transplanted from one patient to another without risk of immune rejection by the body. It has also been suggested that MSCs may be able to slow down the multiplication of immune cells in the body to reduce inflammation and help treat transplant rejection or autoimmune diseases. In recent years, MSC’s have been used to treat all types of autoimmune conditions and certain types of cancer with great success. The research is ongoing, but moving at a fast pace and in years to come we will be able to use our own stem cells from our skin to heal ourselves.
There are many more healing advantages of MSC’s in the human body, far too many to go into specific detail, but again, in my particular S.L.E case, I can say that after my first stem cell procedure, just one week later ALL of my joint pain from arthritis had gone. I was able to type on the computer again, use my phone, it was easier to cook & clean, it became easier to sit or lay in a position and my bones didn’t ache from within anymore. I was very surprised how quickly this happened. Two weeks later I was feeling like I had much more energy and I was sleeping much better at night. I didn’t feel as cold anymore, my nails weren’t as blue and the numbness & tingling in my hands and feet had started to ease. One month later I noticed my hair had stopped falling out and I could see it already starting to grow back. I was also diagnosed with Pericarditis of the heart induced by lupus and as each week passed I was having less frequent chest pains and all the swelling on my body also started to decrease. It was really remarkable. Three months later we ran all of my blood work again, because feeling positive and seeing little changes in the body is one thing, but the proof is in the clinical blood work, so it was important for me to monitor every single step. To my surprise and to the complete surprise of my Rheumatologist and Cardiologist, I had achieved a 50% reduction in disease activity and my Echocardiogram showed signs of a reduction in the level of Pericarditis around my heart and an increase in my Tricuspid Valve sufficiency. All my anti-bodies, such as Anti-dsDNA, Anti-Nuclear Antibody, Anti-coagulant Lupus…etc. had literally decreased to exactly half the values they were before I had my treatment. Of course, my Stem Cell Team weren’t surprised as they had already seen such remarkable results in many other patients before me and continue to do so each day. Exactly one year later I had 100% reversal!
Harvesting & Transplantation:
A big question I always get asked is how is this procedure is carried out? I am sure all doctors who are qualified to carry out Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy, have a slight variation on this procedure, but in my case here is how it is done:
The procedure happens over a four to five day period, depending on blood results and the patients need for stimulant injections. Every patient is a unique case, so the time frame will always differ. However, the week before this procedure is carried out I always go to the hospital for a blood draw as they like to test me in advance for their screening protocol, just to make sure everything is ok to go ahead with the procedure on the chosen dates. If all the tests come back with the correct levels, we continue to the next step. I also always meet the Anesthesiologist on this day to discuss my disease, allergic reactions, what they will administer on the day etc.
8am blood draw, to check the white blood cell count and the first stimulant injection of Neupogen 300mg is administered. This medication helps boost the production of white blood cells called neutrophils. In doing so, this stimulates the bone marrow stem cells and begins to activate them for harvesting, which in turn produces higher quality MSC’s for procedure day. Nothing else happens on this day, you just rest in bed, take plenty of water and must stay away from all other stimulants such a fizzy drinks, coffee, chocolate..etc.
It is important to note that although Neupogen is a medication prescribed for chemotherapy patients, it is NOT in any way, shape or form a type of chemotherapy. It is merely used to stimulate white cell production and gives the patient a higher quality of bone marrow stem cells. It literally forces the stem cells to leave the bone marrow and move into the circulating blood. Yes, there are stem cell therapies carried out which unfortunately include chemotherapy or radiation to shut down the entire immune system first, BUT in the hospital where I have my procedures, thankfully, this is not the case and so it is less harmful for the body and less stressful to go through as a patient. Having said that, there are unfortunately some side effects to this medication, which depending again on how sensitive you are, can be very unpleasant. For me personally, I find that it gives me flu like symptoms in every single bone in my body, it aches so much, I feel very nauseated and I always have bad sinus pain, but apparently the doctors say it is a good thing, as it means that the bone marrow is very stimulated and doing exactly what they want it to do.
8am blood draw to check the level of white blood cells. Depending on the results from this test, the doctor decides how much more Neupogen the patient needs. You made need another full dose or half a dose. Again this day is spent in bed resting and drinking lots of water. Symptoms from the stimulant injection continue and unfortunately get worse, but again this is supposed to happen.
8am Blood draw to check levels of white blood cells and determine correct dosage of Neupogen.
If everything has gone according to plan, this will be the actual procedure day. Again, it usually starts at 8am with a blood draw to check white blood cell levels. After this the nurse will set up the I.V line and he/she will take about 6 very large test tubes of blood. Then they process this blood in their in house lab and take only the best of the white blood cells that the body has produced and save them for later on in the procedure. Next, it is time to go to the operation / procedure room where you will get dressed into the usual medical robes, the nurses run some more checks on you and then they hook you up to the monitoring systems. You are then put under anesthetic (should you choose to have it done this way. It is important to note that you can have this procedure done while fully awake, but as I am very sensitive, I choose to always go under sedation). The next part of the procedure (bone marrow aspiration) takes about 30 minutes. The doctor drills into the Tibia to extract the bone marrow and this sample is then taken back to their in house labs to be cultivated with the white blood cells from earlier. Once they have been cultivated the MSC’s are then put into an I.V bag and the team will administer this back into the I.V line in your arm. You will not feel anything during this part of the procedure, as it is exactly like having a saline drip. It takes about another 30 minutes for this bag of stem cells to flow back into your body. During this time you are still in the procedure room resting. Once the process is finished you must have complete bed rest for 4 days and it is very important to not put any pressure on your leg during this time.
11am blood draw to check the level of your complete blood count and other clinical information that is needed. Blood pressure, heart etc. are also checked and the wound is cleaned again and a new bandage applied. Sometimes, if necessary, the doctor will administer a B12 injection and a Vitamin C injection during this appointment, as an extra boost for the immune system. After this, you are free to return home for complete bed rest and a check-up is usually arranged for a week later. Once the procedure is finished you no longer feel the effects of Neupogen in your body and so I can honestly say that those days of feeling uncomfortable are definitely worth it.
Between two and three weeks after the bone marrow stem cell procedure, you will really start to see and feel a difference in the body. Little by little the symptoms of Lupus / Autoimmune Condition subside and the energy levels increase. As time passes, you should produce better quality red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets and the results will be evident on your routine blood tests. Your Anti-bodies should also start to decrease. The only restriction during the recovery period is to stay away from large crowds in public places, such as movie theatres, malls etc. Your immune system needs time to recover and it’s best to rest as much as you can. Personally, I spend all my time resting and eating at home. Eating out is great when you don’t have the energy to cook, but to give your body the best chance to heal itself naturally, it’s better to eat as clean as you can at home with plenty of fresh organic produce.
As for the Tibia and the effects the bone marrow stem cell procedure has on it…..it really isn’t very painful at all. It feels like a leg ache with some dullness / stiffness, rather than a leg pain. It’s so mild that there is no need for any pain medication after the procedure. The hole the doctor drills to remove the bone marrow stem cells, is tiny and heals very well. I have had the procedure 3 times and I have never had any infection from the point of entry.
Bone Marrow Stem Cell Maintenance Procedures:
This is another question I get asked all the time…..how often do you have to have the procedure done and how long will this better quality of life last?
This can be a hard question to answer, simply because every patient is different and as we all know every autoimmune condition is unique is its own way. It really depends on the symptoms of the patient, the severity of their disease and the quality of life that you want to have or achieve. For example, since I started on my Beat Lupus Naturally journey in November 2014, I have had the procedure done 3 times. The first time was upon diagnosis of S.L.E, the second was 8 months later when I saw a rise in Anti-dsDNA and the third time was 10 months after that when we realised from scans that I had slight Pericariditis again there was also early signs of kidney involvement caused from a previous two year flare before my diagnosis.
Now there are some patients with less disease activity that may only need it done once a year, every 2 years, 5 years and there are some severely ill patients who have organ involvement or for example cancer patients who need it every two months / 6 months. The best part about this treatment is that it is tailored to the patient’s needs, making it very personalised, therefore the patient is in control of his/her body and before those symptoms reappear the patient can monitor their blood work and decide when it is time for a top up.
I can honestly say that deciding to do Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy, instead of the prescribed medications for S.L.E, was not only a tough and scary decision at that time, to go against everything that mainstream medicine was telling me and especially my Rheumatologist, but it was the best decision of my life. This, along with changing my lifestyle completely to clean living with organic produce and products in my home, has not only given me back a part of my life back that I thought I would never have again, it has given me a new perspective on life and has become my new normal. Are there days when I’m tired or suffer minor setbacks in my journey to health??? Of course, but the good thing is it makes me stronger and even more determined to Beat Lupus Naturally, because I am proof that it can be done and we have the power to reduce our disease activity with will power, positivity and most of all knowledge. It also feels good every time one of the 8 doctors on my team of specialist, looks at my results and shakes his/her head in disbelief that I have reversed my Lupus naturally without any of the drugs that mainstream medicine says I should be on and it’s refreshing to hear each one of them say “I don’t know how you are doing this, but keep doing what you are doing, because Lupus drugs could never achieve a reversal in disease activity, let alone a 100% clinical reversal in all Anti-body testing”.
The only serious advice I would give to any patient that is thinking of doing Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy is this…..RESEARCH EVERYTHING about the clinic / hospital you are considering for such a procedure!!!!!!
Unfortunately, there are many stem cell scams out there and doctors that don’t have a clue what they are doing and some that even administer dead stem cells back into the patient, which can be highly dangerous, put you at risk and is a huge waste of time and money, which can be heartbreaking. These are things no ill patient should have to go through when times are bad enough. So please research and only use reputable hospitals / doctors. The type of doctor who performed my stem cell therapy was a Haematologist and a very reputable one.
I really hope that this article helps shed some light on Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy for Lupus and other Autoimmune Conditions. I also hope it gives an insight into what it is like to have a procedure done and what patients can expect if they choose to take this root instead of the conventional root.