Monday, January 28, 2008

How Long are Your Telomeres?

In a recent study, 3 hours and 20 minutes of moderate exercise a week increases telomere length by about 200 base pairs. What does that mean? People that exercise like this were about 10 years genetically younger than couch potatoes.

Telomeres are the ends of your DNA that shorten as you age. This is the reason a dog lives 10-15 years while a person lives 70-100 years. The dog's telomeres shorten quicker, so they age faster. In effect, by not getting this amount of exercise, your telomeres are about 10 years shorter than the guy down the street who does.

I see middle aged and elderly patients all the time who are in too much pain to exercise. They have chronic knee, hip, shoulder, problems that prevent them from being active. The problem is that this impacts not just their overall health, but likely how many years they have left. These patients need to find non-invasive ways to get out of pain. The Regenexx procedure in one way to fix that joint pain without being out of commission for 3 months. Whatever you decide to do to help your injured or arthritic joints, one thing is clear, getting active will help more than just your heart, it will also extend your warranty!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Trouble in Big Pharmadise

This past week saw the demise of block buster drugs from our friends at big pharma. These cholesterol lowering drugs (Vytorin and Zetia), either didn't work any better than older drugs or in the case of Zetia, actually increased the amounts of fatty plaque in the carotid artery. This is on the heels of many major big pharma failures over the past few years including Bextra, Celebrex, Avandia, and others. What's going on and what does it have to do with stem cells?

Big Pharma now spends two dollars on ads for every dollar it spends on research. Big pharma has also retreated from the development of one time use drugs like antibiotics. Why? Big pharma has become intoxicated with big business plans. The best long-term biz plan is a "lifetime" drug, or one where the patient needs to take the medication every day forever. The big block buster categories of these drugs have become pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and cholesterol medications. The focus on marketing over science has created a problem that is evident from these drugs periodically being pulled from market. In these cases, the business plan trumps the science.

How does all of this fit into stem cells? Over the past few years we've seen an explosion of ways to modify cells to become stem cells, modify stem cells with gene therapy, expose stem cells to experimental drugs and cytokines, etc... While these efforts are to be applauded on a basic science front, there is also a plurality of data documenting multiple types of tissue repair using adult mesenchymal stem cells without such modifications. The Regenexx procedure is an example of this type of minimal manipulation, meaning deploying the repairmen of the body in various ways to repair diseased or damaged tissue. While we may be able to eventually build a better stem cell, these approaches where cells are modified are a bit concerning. Watching the Will Smith movie "I am Legend" this weekend was a great example of what can happen with these approaches. In this movie, a cure for cancer is developed by modifying a virus. The innocuous virus cures cancer, but then mutates into a deadly disease which kills 90% of the world population. While this is a bit severe, the more we manipulate cells to get them to do what we want them to do, the more likely we'll produce unintended consequences. Big pharma is learning these lessons now, with drugs being yanked off the market every few months.

With adult stem cells, we have an opportunity to teach big pharma and modern medicine that the next block buster drug is already within us.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Adult Stem Cell Explosion

I spent the holidays re-reviewing some 1,300 research papers published on mesenchymal stem cells in 2007.  At the turn of the millennium in 2000, just 90 mesenchymal stem cell research papers were indexed in the national library of medicine that year.  Think about that exponential growth.  If this publishing activity represented a business, growth like that would be enviable.  

The amazing thing about this review was the varied applications for these cells.  They are being used for orthopedic applications (like the Regenenexx procedure), plastic surgery, dentistry, heart muscle repair in many heart diseases including heart attack, cancer, healing skin wounds, diabetes, spinal cord injury, nerve injury, hearing loss, liver repair, lung repair, kidney repair, just to name a few.  We are truly seeing an explosion that will revolutionize the medicine of the next 10-20 years.  If you have a few minutes, this link will take you to the more than 4,000 articles that have been published on these powerful cells.