It is interesting to note that TheraVitae is now pushing their VesCell brand of adult stem cell therapy for heart disease - with the procedures performed in Thailand - quite aggressively in the US. They've recruited Amit Patel, a researcher in the field involved in US trials of stem cell heart therapies, and are conducting a slick advertising campaign. This seems to me to be a step forward; private capital is now confident enough in stem cell medicine to be funding and marketing medical tourism to Asia in the US. From their website:
VesCell(tm) is "autologous" adult stem cell therapy. That means we use stem cells taken from your own blood . These stem cells are named "ACPs" (Angiogenic Cell Precursors). ACPs are cells that induce the growth of blood vessels. These cells may also turn into additional types of cells that can benefit heart patients. Similar cells, but probably less effective than ACPs, have successfully been used in dozens of clinical trials all over the world.
Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons are currently using VesCell(tm) to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from ischemic heart disease (or coronary artery disease) cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure by relieving debilitating symptoms such as severe angina pectoris (severe chest pain) and increasing exercise tolerance.
Overseas visits for stem cell therapies - that will not be approved in the US in the forseeable future - have been taking place for some time now, but I don't recall the groups involved making waves to this extent in the past. Which is a pity, as the deployment of working therapies outside the US is one of the few remaining things that can temporarily speed up the regulatory morass inside the US.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out; medical tourism will grow rapidly if the most impressive new therapies are increasingly deployed outside the US. If companies like TheraVitae turn a profit providing this service, then there will certainly be more providers next year and the year after - it might be the first step in a chain of events that finally succeeds in reining in the FDA and the risk-averse regulatory culture that is blocking and slowing progress in the US. We can hope.
As to whether VesCell is a viable stem cell therapy, we shall see - but trials of comparable therapies and stem cell technologies have been successful and increasingly promising for years now. Given the choice between trying stem cell therapies oversees or the comparatively crude medical technologies generally available in the US, I know where I'd be heading if I had heart disease.
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