All of the cautionary words regarding stem cell therapy for Lyme disease do not preclude the possibility that such stem cell treatments could be of benefit for patients. Unfortunately, science is slow to advance, and legislation and regulation of medical trials makes that progress even slower in the US. Desperate patients turn, unsurprisingly, to overseas clinics when they hear of success stories there, which then reduces the number of patients available to take part in clinical trials at home, further slowing down scientific progression. Potential applications of stem cells for Lyme disease include regeneration of myelin around nerve fibers, reductions in inflammation, tissue regeneration after damaging Lyme arthritis, heart tissue repair following Lyme carditis, and even skin repair after extensive acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans.
Potential Benefits of Embryonic Stem Cells for Lyme Disease
In spite of the safety concerns over the use of human embryonic stem cells to treat Lyme disease and other conditions, there are a number of potential applications for such therapies. Embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into all of the tissues and structures of the body and can therefore potentially regenerate tissue damaged by Lyme disease. Perhaps the most potent application of this would be in cases of neuroborreliosis, or neurological Lyme disease. Demyelination and lesions that occur in such central nervous system infection are often mistaken for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, for which there is no current cure. The focus in treating such demyelinating conditions is simply to slow down disease progression rather than remyelinate damaged neurons, for which there is no medical procedure or drug as yet. By culturing neural stem cells in the laboratory and transplanting them to the site of damage in the spinal cord or the brain it may be that lesion development can be slowed down or even reversed. Clinical trials looking at the use of stem cells for spinal cord injury may reveal wider applications for other nervous system conditions, including long-term damage from Lyme disease infection.