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Stem Cell Treatment for Lyme Disease

stem cell treatment for lyme disease

Culturing stem cells prior to treatment is thought preferential to simple transplants as practiced in the US.

Stem cell treatment for Lyme disease is not available in the US as an approved therapy but there are numerous stem cell clinics overseas offering the experimental procedure, often for upwards of $40,000. Despite anecdotal evidence available on personal blogs and Lyme disease forums, there remains no clinical trial data, or rigorous scientific evidence to support the claim that stem cell therapy can cure, reverse, or in any way treat symptoms of Chronic Lyme disease or acute infection with Borrelia bacteria. The mechanisms proposed for the efficacy of stem cell therapy for Lyme disease are varied and complex, with embryonic stem cell therapy, allogeneic, and autologous stem cell treatments offered to desperate patients.

Stem Cell Therapy for Lyme Disease in the US

The use of stem cell therapy for Lyme disease may not be approved in the US but that does not stop some clinics practicing such therapy due to a legal loophole concerning medical procedures. Bone marrow, or even fatty tissue, can be extracted in a clinic in the US before being transplanted back into the patient and called stem cell therapy. There are a variety of procedures using this technique, including breast augmentation, facial rejuvenation, and other cosmetic and medical practices and all are taking advantage of the allowance for patients to receive injections or transplants of their own body tissue as long as it has not undergone any manipulation between extraction and re-insertion.

US Lyme Disease Therapy Pitfalls

The problem with such stem cell therapy is that the number and activity of stem cells in the sample tissue is unverified and unlikely to be of significant clinical value. The culturing procedures undertaken in the laboratory are designed to vastly increase the population of stem cells and separate these from the other cell types so as to have a specific cell population for transplantation. Laboratory grown stem cell populations can also be screened for infection, abnormality, and cultured in such a way as to direct their application once transplanted. A generic tissue transplant may contain some stem cells but many of these will simply die off. In more problematic cases, a tissue transplant from one area of the body could lead to abnormal cell growth in the transplant area as specific types of stem cells continue to follow the biochemical cues from their fellow transplanted fat or bone tissue cells.

A Stem Cell Cure or a Placebo Effect?

Patients travelling overseas for costly stem cell treatment have a considerable emotional investment in the therapy. Many of the clinics offer an all-round package including physical therapy, counselling, and even sightseeing and entertainment along with the stem cell treatment. It is extremely difficult to separate out the causes of any improvements seen by patients at such clinics, especially as the treatment protocols vary between individuals and are not monitored as part of an ongoing controlled clinical trial. For many, such trips overseas garner little benefit, but these patients tend not to gain publicity in traditional or new media outlets. Positive effects of treatments are often reported as occurring in a very short space of time which makes many medical professionals suspicious as to the actual involvement of stem cell therapy in such improvements. Longstanding neurological damage can take years to heal and may never fully resolve making it extremely unlikely that any short-term or immediate treatment effects are due to nerve repair or regrowth. Determining the longevity of such effects, as well as their cause is paramount in refining treatment protocols but this is unlikely to occur any time soon in the US, leading patients to travel to overseas clinics at their own risk for stem cell treatment for Lyme disease.

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