You are here
Berman offers peek into the ‘stem cell revolution’
“A stem cell is a non-specialized cell that can become specialized and then be used to heal and also to aid in longevity,” explained Dr. Mark Berman, a specialist in stem cell therapy, at Stem Cells: A New Era in Medicine, a presentation he gave at Malibu’s Senior Center Thursday, Jan. 26.
This was not a forum for discussing political, private sector or moral issues. However, Berman emphasized that the techniques and practices that he and his colleagues use are fully compliant with the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines.
He acknowledged there are critics of stem cell therapy, but noted that because “Big Pharma” specializes in manufacturing medicines to help people, it “has very little motivation to provide patients with stem cell therapy.” Academics who thrive on government research grants and interface with pharmaceutical entities have no particular vested interest in bringing stem cell therapy to patients either, he said.
Berman said that as a physician, he feels that if he can help make patients better, he must do so.
“I’m a very conservative person,” he said. “While this might sound radical, stem cells work.”
When someone becomes ill or suffers medical concerns, traditionally, medicine has treated patients with medications or surgery. As people age, they are often given hormone replacement supplements.
Stem cells provide another means to address concerns and assist in longevity, because they can replace cells in the body. They can also be used to address organ failure, Berman explained.
“Organ transplants have been the only option available in many instances until recently,” Berman said. “Now, stem cells provide another alternative.”
Berman advocates using stem cells as a means to heal because he sees this modality as the best option.
“Using embryonic stem cells implicates potential moral and/or ethical issues and has some troubles,” he said. “First, they have different DNA than the host, the person whom we’ll use them for. Second, they can form tumors.
“Whereas, adult stem cells are found all over the body. Our fat cells have an abundant source of stem cells. These cells are multi-potent because they have the same DNA as the host that we will put them into, they can’t be rejected, unlike embryonic cells. Further, there are no moral or ethical issues.”
Stem cells can treat various conditions, but Berman used arthritis in a knee as an example.
“There is abundant evidence that bone marrow stem cells can reverse arthritis,” Berman said. “An entity named Vet-Stem has developed abundant evidence that arthritis can be reversed in animals with fat-derived [stromal vascular fraction].”
Berman explained how the stem cells migrate to the affected area after they are put in a patient’s body.
“Arthritic cartilage breaks down and gives off cytokines – [Messenger RNA] that attracts and signals the stem cells to repair tissue,” Berman said. “The stem cells are angiogenic – they can start growing vessels to help vascularize the graft.”
Berman emphasized that stem cells need a signal to respond to, and if, for instance, a person’s knee is so compromised that the space where cartilage should be is only bone-to-bone, then that ever-important signal will be missing.
However, patients who have potential to get stem cell therapy can avoid morbidity and mortality issues sometimes associated with total joint replacements. With the stem cell treatments, Berman said that knees may improve in two months. For other orthopedic patients, backs tend to improve in a week or more, and shoulders can take up to three months to improve.
Berman predicted that the future of medicine will focus more on cell replacement therapy.
“I like to quote the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on this,” Berman said. “He said that ‘All truth passes through three phases. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’ Stem cell therapy is between the first and second phase stages.”
Clinical trends and relevant data are promising with regard to stem cell therapy’s efficacy. Data show that all orthopedic cases for which Berman and others have collected statistical data reveal that there is an approximately 80 percent positive response for orthopedic cases, a 68 percent positive response for cardiac patients, 57 percent positive response for pulmonary cases, 75 percent for auto-immune cases, and 63 percent for neuro-degenerative cases.
The audience was fascinated by the fact that stem cell therapy modalities are being used to address Parkinson’s disease, and some efforts have had amazing results. For instance, Berman recounted, a composer/pianist who could not perform his life’s work was able to resume playing the piano and composing and is walking better after stem cell treatment. Finally, Berman shared that in China, a spinal cord injury patient who was paralyzed for years, then injected with stem cells, is now able to ambulate.
Berman and some of his colleagues are participating in approved cancer pilots, and are making efforts to use stem cell therapy in cases of autism.
“My vision isn’t for there to be specialty stem cell clinics,” Berman said. “Rather, in the future, stem cells will be part of the armor available to every physician to treat conditions.”
After such an informational session, the audience was amazed, appreciative and impressed.
“This is the best senior center presentation I’ve been to,” attendee David Buteyn said. “He was the nicest doctor and I like that he stayed so long. I was a respiratory therapist and I thought there was excellent content.”
Dr. Vidya Ghosti, a retired psychologist from Malibu who once taught at UCLA, agreed.
“It was interesting because he explained certain facts I was not aware of,” Ghosti said.
Berman’s practice, the California Stem Cell Treatment Center, is located in Beverly Hills, and consults specialists including urologists, cosmetic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, cardiology and internal medicine practitioners, interventional radiologists, neurosurgeons, ophthalmologists, dentists, and specialists in spine and pain management.
Berman emphasized that what he and his team are doing with regard to stem cell research and treatments is investigative, not experimental.
Berman also spearheads the Cell Surgical Network, a large online database network that collects information relating to cell therapy, participates in sharing and approving protocols and outcomes, adapts to scientific advances, and works with the FDA and medical researchers. Current approved studies are monitoring knee, shoulder, hip, and back outcomes, as well as urological, cardiac, COPD and asthma, ophthalmological, and neurological outcomes.
Berman is also the author of “The Stem Cell Revolution.”