Interviewer: Are stem cells becoming more accepted, you think, around here in the United States? You hear a lot about people in this country going to Europe to get treatments like that. Is it becoming more widely accepted here?
Terry Grossman, M.D.: More and more doctors are beginning to look at stem cells as a potential therapy in the Unites States. The problem is, the overwhelming majority of physicians in the United States are very conservative. They're only going to do something that is approved by the FDA. At this point in time, the FDA had not approved stem cell therapies in the United States. They haven't said that they're illegal either. But, they have made certain regulations. Within those regulations, there are a few doctors, myself included, that are doing some limited work with stem cells.
We take abdominal fat, and we can use the stem cells that we isolate from the abdominal fat to treat some orthopedic conditions. Some cosmetic physicians, cosmetic surgeons, plastic surgeons, are also using stem cells for aesthetic applications. Other than these two, most doctors in the United States are still not using stem cells because of the FDA regulations.
However, outside of the United States, there is an increasing movement in a number of countries to utilize these adult stem cells that come from the patients themselves, which appear to be relatively safe. We don't have the problems associated with the embryonic cells, which are harder to control. They're using these to treat lung disease. They're using these to treat kidney disease, to treat diabetes, autism, Parkinson's. A number of conditions seem amenable to treatment with the stem cells today. It's moving forward very, very quickly. In the United States, we are doing a lot of research, but it's not being translated into clinical applications for patients quite yet.
Interviewer: Since you would use cells from that same person, does that mean it's a very safe procedure, or there are some risks still involved with that?
Terry Grossman, M.D.: The problem is we don't know for sure if there are risks. The fact that we are using stem cells for ourself seems to increase the margin of safety. That's called autologous stem cells, where you use your own stem cells for yourself. For instance, in orthopedic applications these have been done in the Unites States for about six or seven years. No long-tem side effects have occurred, at least in this period of time. But we don't know whether there will be something that could be possible years down the line. At this point, they appear to be safe.