Stem cells have an amazing ability to repair tissue damage. They seem to improve many conditions including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cardiac disease and much more. But, that potential is luring consumers to spend big money on unproven treatments. HealthCall’s Lee Kelso explores this problem and the potential of stem cell therapy with Dr. Ernst Von Schwarz, a cardiologist and stem cell researcher.
Hi, I’m Lee Kelsey host of the healthcare live radio hour. I am glad that you’re here to meet a medical school, Professor, a cardiologist who says that stem cells are one of the most remarkable advances in medicine in our lifetime. So what’s going on and how can we see these treatments be more widely used and more effective? He is the author of a new book called The Secret World of Stem Cell Therapy. He is Professor, Dr Ernst Von Schwartz, and he joins us live from the Los Angeles area today.
So that’s pretty dramatic to say this is the most significant development in medicine in quite some time. Tell me more about that. Tell me more about why what makes stem cells so important? Well, we are shifting the the Paradigm in medicine is Shifting. What we are doing since centuries, basically, is what we would call reactive medicine, meaning we as Physicians react to whatever brings a patient in symptoms.
Damage of an organ injuries, so we try to limit further damage, but we are not really repairing anything and in the big and New Field of what we call regenerative medicine, which includes stem cell therapy. We want to go one step further and we want to repair the damage instead of just reacting to the damage and what what it cost the consequences we want to repair it and by that restued restitute, basically the status to what it was before the injury or The damage and that’s all about stem cell therapy, so these stem cells are in my body today and Performing uh that function now right, but as we age, we have fewer and fewer of them. So how can I take advantage and and increase the number of stem cells? Is that even possible not really at this point I mean you are right. We have the stem cells within us, but those stem cells lay, as you know, very well.
Of course they lose quantity and quality and potency over time, so the older we get, the less potent stem cells are. So I give you an example in in utero, for example, when an embryo is built if there is loss of a limp of a leg, for example in the first weeks, then, thanks to the enormous potential of stem cells, the embryo is able to rebuild that entire Extremity, but over time in uterine, then of course, after birth, if that happens, that’s not going to be replaced anymore, so that only works within the first weeks in Europe. So, even though we have stem cells, they are really not that potent um to to do what they are supposed to do and that’s repairing all the damage to some degree. There are, but over time like I said, we lose that that potency. So what we do in using stem cell therapy – and it’s all, of course, in the frame of research and clinical trials right now, is we use outside application of stem cells which we give to the patients in order to basically imitate what they are supposed to do.
In our bodies, meaning repairing the damage, so as an example um, several studies has shown have shown that if you inject stem cells directly in the Heart during open heart surgery into the borderline of scar tissue, that stem cells, to some degree at least, are able to Regenerate Scar Tissue, meaning they are able to build what we call cardiomyocytes had hard muscle cells and by thus reduce scar tissue and then subsequent to that improve damaged function of the heart. That has been nicely shown in our own experiments in experimental animals 20 years ago, and that has been then of course shown in clinical studies. But having said that, we are not at a point where we can say: oh, let’s do that for every patient right now um, and there are several reasons for that. One number one is, of course, stem cell therapy is not FDA approved and the reason why it’s not FDA approved is because we still have a lot of open questions and we still don’t have enough data. On the other hand, every single study, which was ever published using some cells, whether it’s for heart disease, whether it’s for arthritis in the knee, whether it’s for Parkinson’s Disease, have shown benefits.
But all those Studies have relatively small numbers of of patients and they show great results, but there is no cure of any disease but possib, possibly Improvement in the function capacity. So the purpose of your book is to really teach all of us: consumers, the ins and the outs of stem cell therapy. Right because there are lots of plea organizations out there promoting a stem cell for a wide variety of reasons. And basically many of them are a scam. So what can we reliably count on stem cells to do for us as they’re used today?
Well, I’m glad you brought that up Lee. I mean the the main reason for me to wrote. The book is, I’m not selling our own stem cell therapies. You know, I’m not a salesperson um. The reason is really uh to to be educational and to educate the public about what are really the facts.
So I’ll give you an example. If you do an internet search on a condition, let’s say heart attack and stem cell therapy or find within uh 0.2 seconds, probably 10 million hits right, Samsung therapy for heart attacks. If you look at those hits on the internet, 99.99 of those is pure advertising.
Marketing material from companies that want to sell stem cells, whether it’s in the US or all over the world, without any scientific data. Even though, and I’m the biggest proponent of stem cell therapy in the future, of course, and I’m involved and have been involved in the basic research studies in the clinical trials, even though we all believe it is a future of medicine, it’s not at a point where We can widely say: oh, this is the right thing for everybody, with with a heart attack, absolutely not, and the the the the idea of the book is, of course, to educate the the public and tell them look that’s published, for example, with regard to treatment of Heart attacks X, many Studies have shown this and these results and and that’s um, the the benefits, the potential benefits and that’s the risk, but um again it’s it’s I’m completely against the false advertising, as many companies do um promising cures of diseases by a simple injection Promising people – oh you just pay, thirty thousand dollars for one injection and you don’t have Lupus anymore or your Alzheimer’s has improved. That is just not not reality, and I would want against that. On the other hand, I’m I’m myself heavily involved in studies uh which don’t fit the the typical double-blind cons, control pilot, face studies in large academic centers, for example, for a patient with Advanced stages of of heart disease, heart failure. They don’t fit in any academic study.
They are too sick and too old and many want to try something. Like stem cell therapy, I had at least 10 patients over the last. I would say seven to eight years, who were theoretically candidates for heart transplantation, but practically couldn’t get it because oftentimes either they were too old or at multimorbid conditions were too frail for that. But wanted to try and as long as basically you declare clearly, this is experimental. We cannot make any promises um.
We still did it and followed those patients over years of interest and we’re writing that up what I’m just saying right now, as a scientific, observational paper right now, they all had Improvement of their symptoms, the only Improvement of their functional and physical capacity, but they did Not have any change in the the the the measurable strengths of their heart, but the quality of life was significantly improved and that’s important, of course, especially if you deal with patients who have incurable chronic diseases. So so walk me down the path of What treatments out there are today appear to be effective. I am familiar with regenerative medicine clinics where they’re doing bone marrow extraction. They spin out the stem cells and re-inject them into a damaged joint. Some patients say it’s working.
Others or not, does that sound like a valid procedure. Is that something we might want to get put some faith in well uh? It is done everywhere in the world in that that way, um and it’s very effective. It’S still not FDA approved. We don’t do that anymore.
By the way we don’t use a patient’s own stem cells from a bone, marrow aspiration or adipose tissue aspiration. We use known our cells, which is umbilical cord blood or placenta tissue, which is 5 000 times more potent than what you find in your bone marrow or in your adipose tissue. So that’s allergenic, so that’s not from the same patient, but that’s from from a donor. But is it clean um, but we figured out over the last uh 12 15 years, basically, and to avoid, of course, any anti-antigen antibody production, any immune reactions by basically avoiding the cellular membrane. So it’s it’s not cells.
It’S just the contents of cells, but even this is done still in the frame of clinical studies. It’S not widely used or accepted, or it’s not paid by insurance companies. It’S not FDA approved, but it does work, and I I’ve been involved in many patients that, for example, as you mentioned injections, in their knees, even in cases where you would have thought. Well, that’s Bond and Bone arthritis and too much degeneration, but keep in mind. Stem cells have certain effects, and I, if I may just mention them briefly number one is they are anti-inflammatory.
So if we inject them in a knee which is heavily inflamed, the anti-inflammatory effects reduce the pain. Patients feel better number two. They are angiogenetic, meaning they help to create new blood vessels capillaries it’s called endogenesis and by creating new blood vessels, we improve the oxygen supply, the perfusion, the circulation of what ammo, whatever damaged organ, whether it’s a knee a brain, a kidney or a heart or the Skin and you can see that and by improved circulation we can improve and for cost of the healing processes. And thirdly, there are some degree, as I mentioned earlier, of what we call regeneration. So if you put stem cells into heart tissue, for example, they might have the ability to develop into heart muscle cells.
If we put them in the liver, they might have the ability to develop into hepatocytes or liver cells. If you put them in the skin, they heal by becoming skin cells, and that has all been proven. So everybody who is actively involved in the research of stem cell therapy knows that this is a way to go and there’s a reason Lee why the biggest and most expensive companies in the world, Amazon, Google Apple, spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars since over The last seven years in a regenerative therapy, research and stem cell research. So where is this all going and is when are we going to see the day where these treatments are Dependable, reliable and widely available? What’S that going to take to get there?
Well, it takes more more studies. The issue is, of course, that for the the clinical part um in Auto, for example, if if someone wants to get a new drug on the market, to treat a certain condition that takes usually 10 years and 100 million dollars so um, there is no uh big Pharma Lobby, a big Pharma companies who support stem cell therapy, so there’s not much money there in the research, it’s all based on on small donations or small grants, and that’s why all the studies we are doing and everybody else is doing a relatively small numbers of Patients so there’s a huge demand for financial support to conduct large-scale clinical trials, and that will take if you want to do it in the right way. Of course, that will take several years. So my anticipation is there’s. Nothing will be approved on a larger scale within the next 10 or 15 years.
So what are we missing? There could could stem cells play a role in helping to fight back this explosion of Alzheimer’s we’re going to be seeing. Is that has huge societal benefit? If we make that happen, is there? Is there a path?
Absolutely I’m I’m a strong believer in that, and – and we have seen that anecdotally in individual patients, of course. So what what needs to happen is basically that we have to do off-label therapies, not FDA, approved, considered experimental for patients and then just use the data and analyze them scientifically and statistically and uh test them basically compared to to Placebo or standard treatment. We did that recently. As an example, we published a study for a completely different condition: sexual dysfunction, okay, so um, there have been some very small studies on sexual dysfunction and Improvement of sexual dysfunction after stem cell injection, by the way, both men and women, but mainly men. And if you same thing, if you, Google sexual dysfunction stem cell research, you find tons of marketing and stuff.
But the total number of patients worldwide published on stem cell injections for sexual dysfunction was less than 100 less than 100. And there’s, like 50 million advertising advertisements out there on the net, so there’s a huge discrepance. So we did a study on approximately 40 patients with some historic controls. We had the patients as historic controls and we had some Placebo, controlled patients, where we just did very simple things. We used established questionnaires like the international index for record dysfunction, which is a scientific tool and applied that before and six months after the stem cell interaction and every single patient in the treatment group had an improvement, no cure, but a significant Improvement.
And that was compared to before, but also compared to controls so um. The only way to to to get to a point where we can use it broadly is either waiting for the large clinical trials or really collecting a lot of data. Now, as we go basically from our own experience and then analyze them scientifically and get them published for heart attacks for 15 years before they were FDA approved, they were only approved for a gallbladder ducts, but not for coronary arteries, but we still use them for almost 15 years before the FDA approved them. Well, then help me out as a consumer. If I, if I’m suffering, let’s go back to the the arthritis in the knee and I’d really rather not have a replacement surgery.
I don’t want the implant guide me to the questions to ask. How do I find someone that’s going to provide me a therapy, that’s likely to provide Improvement. What do I look for? Well the easiest answer letter that is with the book. So it’s all in the book.
You have to ask the right questions, I mean, and there are several things number one is, of course I mean do some background research on the providers I mean I I have seen uh the best and the worst in this in this field. Um. I have seen a lot of charlatans offering stem cell therapies for a lot of money. Number two. You want to look also at the academic background.
Did they publish in the field? Are they scientifically active? Do they know what they’re talking about, and I give examples in the book? Why basically play the patient and call different, centers or offered stem cell therapies and ask certain questions which they had no clue? What I was talking about – and I I knew I mean that’s.
It’S all Bs; basically, they don’t know what what they’re doing they’re just running a business. Basically, they have no scientific background, and the other question, of course, is what kind of cells are you getting and where do they come from? There’S companies one, for example, in California um who is sold to a stem cell products all over the country and three years ago, 18. Patients all over the United States within a few months were admitted to hospitals with sepsis with bacteremia, meaning blood stream infections. After they received that particular product from that particular company and turned out that that company um, they don’t have physician, they don’t have even chemists on their on their board.
So in the laboratory, they’re, just bankers and business people who don’t follow any hygienic regulations and just um try to to make a lot of money selling unclean products you have to shut them down and, like a month later, they opened under a different name. And these are the things of course, um only an Insider can know and would know so you have to be really really careful and that’s why I try to at least be as specific in the book what question to ask, but these are the main things and People want to want to look in before they, they trust someone. I have a great interest in a real focus on treating aging as a disease and extending our health span, not necessarily lifespan, but our health span. What role do you think stem cells could play in that effort? A huge role?
I completely agree with you aging. It might be a great thing, um from an ethical point of view, of course, but on the other hand, Lee I completely agree with you. Age is aging, can be a disease and more people die of advanced age than of anything else, and H is the number one risk factor for death and every day a hundred thousand people die of advanced ages. So, of course, nowadays we have to see aging as something which is not a good thing, but which can be not prevented, but probably delayed, and regenerative therapy, including stem cell therapy, plays a major role. I give you an example: I’m in Los Angeles, as you know, what do you think why uh people on the red carpet in Hollywood or on camera look so Flawless and beautiful and 20 years younger?
Are you going to tell me they’re having facial injections? Are we having facial injections yeah, we do stem cell injections in the face because it doesn’t rejuvenate The Superficial skin layers. It improves the circulation, as I mentioned earlier, and within two days they glow, I mean it. It makes you look younger and subsequently feel younger. So but besides that cosmetic and wellness aspect, of course I mean we, we have lots of data now um, as you mentioned before, we can treat arthritis and and if we don’t treat arthritis that leads to immobility, for example, and that leads to Frailty, and that leads To more problems with aging, so there is a significant potency using regenerative therapy, including stem cells, to find the consequences, I don’t believe in in a biological immortality.
I don’t believe in the fact that we can prevent aging, even though a lot of people work now on on a cellular level how to try to manipulate the the biochemical Pathways leading to senescence meaning cellular aging. But I’m convinced that within probably the next five or ten years will make a lot of advances in delaying the processes of aging and, as you said, Lee exactly we want to not just have people live longer. We want to increase the health span, not the lifespan. Only have you treated yourself with stem cells for any reason, and what were the results? If you have all the time of course, well tell me: how are you using them?
Is that why you have such a great head of hair? No, I mean I had, for example, not not that long ago I had a horrible shoulder pain and I had an MRI of my neck and I had some degenerative uh disease in the uh in in my neck, and I went to two spinal surgeons. They said: well, you have a compression of of the nerves and you you need surgery, and I read in one absolutely because it would take me out for for days, if not weeks, of course um and um. So I had actually one of my colleagues and – and I was very uncomfortable – I mean I – I couldn’t move my left arm. I I I was in in constant pain.
There was no position which gave me any relief if I lifted the arm up was the same down. I couldn’t really sleep at night. It was just from that nerve compression. It was a horrible feeling. It really limited me in everything and um.
They gave me NSAIDs, like anti anti-inflammatory medications, didn’t do anything except causing some some stomach pain, um, and I had then a single injection of stem cells all over the neck and the shoulder done by one of my colleagues. I was actually a student who came from Germany and worked with me on Sensai research and within a day. Basically, I I was improved and knock on wood somewhere. That’S like a year almost ago I haven’t had any recounts. I know that I do have degeneration in the neck and at one point I might need a surgical, um repair, I’m aware of that, but I mean for over almost a year now, I’m I’m completely pain-free.
So how do I, as a consumer, evaluate the benefit potential benefit against the cost of these procedures, because we’re talking thousands of dollars for these procedures? In many cases, correct? Well, stem cells are expensive and it’s uh. It depends of course, on on the left, but overall yeah I mean we have our own lab. For example, the the sales cost a few thousand dollars plus um.
We need to pay a technician and so on to injects and so on. Um yeah. I mean it again: there’s no insurance company who pays for it right now and um. I mean we have a lot of people coming to us actually from all over the world for different conditions and they ask about it and um. Well, I tell everybody: it is considered experimental.
We have seen anecdotally great results. We have preliminary studies with great results depending on conditions, but there’s conditions where I would not go that route um, for example, in the whole field of cancer therapy, I’m a cardiologist. So I’m not an oncologist, that’s not my expertise at all, and I I was asked just recently several times on patients from all over the world about Advanced stages of cancer and whether I think stem cell therapy could help. I personally have no experience in that. I would even stay away from it um because there’s always a risk.
Can you make things worse? So if someone has active cancer, I personally at this point in time. I wouldn’t go that route, but other than that I mean it’s always a personal decision. If, if you want to undergo an experimental therapy, what is there to lose? The only thing you lose basically is the money you have to pay for it and several institutions, unless you’re lucky enough to go into a randomized controlled study where it might be free, but they’re, very rare.
Of course we did several of them. We did a covet which we sell Finance. Basically, patients didn’t have to pay for it with also amazing results, but it was a very small small number study. Uh leave me with a thought here. What, as a consumer I mean your book is very easy to read.
I I found it not to be at all intimidating and I’m sure most people won’t um. What is it you want me to know, and, and how do I look at this in the next three to five years? I want you to know that stem cells is the future of medicine and there’s a lot more to come, watching the news, but don’t believe everything you read on on Google all right, that’s a good place to leave it. That is Dr Ernst Schwartz. He is the author of The Secret World of stem cell therapy and I think you’ll find this to be a very interesting, read doctor.
Thank you for joining us. Thank you very much. Good luck to you.