Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rejuvenation therapies

Updates from the recent annual scientific conference organised by the Society for Anti-Ageing, Aesthetics and Regenerative Medicine Malaysia.

THE Society for Anti-Ageing, Aesthetics and Regenerative Medicine Malaysia (SAAARMM) had its annual scientific conference recently, and I would like to share some of the updates.

You will notice that the society has a long name. It started as just an anti-ageing society. Then aesthetics was added because the demand for aesthetic therapies actually exceeds that of anti-ageing therapies. While most people want to look young, not all of them are concerned about being young (ie healthy). Finally, regenerative medicine was added.

Anti-ageing medicine implies the slowing down or reversal of ageing in an otherwise “healthy” person, while regenerative medicine implies the restoration of health and functions in the unhealthy or diseased person. Once health is restored, any further gain would be anti-ageing. These are strategies applied at different points of the health spectrum.

I try not to miss the annual convention because I always get to meet two of the pioneers and leading researchers/proponents in this field. Both are from the US.

Dr Bob Goldman is the chairman and co-founder of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), which is hugely responsible for popularising and promoting anti-ageing medicine throughout the world. He also holds the world record for hand-stand push-ups (doing push-ups with the body vertically up, head down).

Dr Nick Delgado is one of my mentors. He worked with the famous Pritikin Longevity Centre and also with top performance coach Anthony Robbins. Among other things, he taught me the goodness of whole-food juicing. He has his own range of supplements and anti-ageing strategy – The Delgado Protocol. At the age of 54, he is the world champion for vertical lifts (repetitive lifting of 25-pound weights on alternate arms) and continues to defend his title. He is also pioneering the use of stem cells for rejuvenation, and uses himself as a guinea-pig, getting the injections every month. Already he has more hair than last year. He hopes to live to 150!

The three of us are of the same age (so is Dr Ronald Klatz, President and co-founder of A4M). So it will be interesting to see how we age over the years. All three of us rely on hormone optimisation/balancing and nutritional supplements. They are super-fit and super-strong individuals, while I only go to the gym whenever possible. I have to rely on my qigong to keep up with them. And soon I will have to start injecting stem cells into myself too.

Rejuvenation strategies

The basis of health and rejuvenation has always been a healthy lifestyle, a nutritious diet, and adequate exercise. And may I add, enough life-force, or qi. Every other strategy is additional to these basic requirements.

The most exciting advances are in the use of stem cells for treating degenerative diseases, for rejuvenation, and even for aesthetics. I will share about this today.

The role of inflammation and the immune system involved in its modulation and the important roles played by certain nutrients were repeatedly emphasized by several of the experts at the meeting. There was also much discussion on the importance of many hormones. I will discuss these in another article.

We were shown examples of how protocols used in anti-ageing/regenerative therapy succeeded in reversing many chronic diseases (even cancers) and relieved the patients from being drug-dependent.

This shows that anti-ageing/regenerative medicine is more curative than the conventional disciplines, which are often satisfied with “normal readings” achieved by drug therapy.

Doctors in anti-ageing/regenerative medicine aim to recover normal function and normal health through lifestyle, hormonal and nutritional modification. We try to avoid chemical drugs. After achieving “normal” health (meaning free from disease, but not necessarily tip-top health), we then aim for optimum (ie best achievable) health.

Stem cells and cell therapy

Stem cells have been successfully used to improve or cure about 135 different diseases. Since many of these are degenerative diseases related to ageing, and the diseases themselves can be considered as accelerated ageing, it was just a matter of time before stem cell therapy found its role in anti-ageing/rejuvenation/regenerative medicine.

The Swiss and German pioneers of cell therapy were using embryonic, foetal and young animal organ cells since over 100 years ago. Live cell therapy (xenotransplantation, ie using the cells, tissues, or organs from another species) became established in the 1930s through the work of Dr Paul Niehans and others. Although he and his colleagues successfully treated thousands of people (including Pope Pious XII), cell therapy remained popular only in European rejuvenation clinics, and in cancer-treatment centres in Mexico and South America.

It is a well-known secret that many of our rich-and-famous people regularly go to these European clinics for rejuvenation cell therapy. Often, the doctors come here to treat their clients.

While it was not surprising that the organs or tissues from the embryos, foetuses or young animals enabled the regeneration of the corresponding diseased tissue/organ in the recipient patient, it is now realised that much of the healing and regeneration are possible because these transplanted tissues or organs are rich in stem cells. In other words, the same results would not be achieved if the adult tissues were transplanted. There would also be serious tissue-rejection problems with adult animal sources, which did not happen with all the cases using very young animals.

The practice of cell therapy is now more streamlined, with greater understanding of the different types of therapies available – for rejuvenation as well as treating specific health problems or diseases. The patient is usually given a combination of cells derived from many organs (and placenta), depending on the diagnosis.

The simplest is DNA extracted from foetal organ cells. These will “rejuvenate” the DNA of the corresponding organ-cells of the recipient, and restore the ability to produce certain proteins necessary for their function.

Then there are the lyophilised foetal organ cells, which are reconstituted just prior to injection. Of higher quality and effectiveness are the fresh frozen cells which are thawed prior to injection, and finally the best are the fresh cells which are injected soon after production.

However, the fresh cells must be given immediately (which means you have to be at the centre near the production facility) or kept cold during transportation and injected within 48 hours.

Autologous cellular regeneration

Now that research on stem cells is vigorously pursued in mainstream medicine, anti-ageing doctors are among those at the forefront in using them.

Previously, the main sources of stem cells were bone-marrow and stored newborn cord blood. Now the trend is to have autologous (your own cells) stem cells from more easily-obtained sources – blood and fat.

While blood, like the marrow, is a source of haemopoeitic stem cells (HSC, giving rise to all the different types of blood cells), fat tissue is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC, precursors of many types of structural cells). Much research is being done on fat-derived stem cells (ADSC, Adipose-Derived Stem Cells) because most of us have plenty of fat to get rid off, which in turn can provide us with plenty of stem cells.

Even the differences between HSC, MSC, and other stem cell types are becoming unclear as scientists have successfully caused the differentiation of these stem cells to cell types previously thought impossible. For example, functioning heart cells have been created from stem cells found in menstrual blood.

Autologous cellular rejuvenation

ADSC is now widely used in aesthetic clinics. Stem cells and other precursor cells rich in growth factors are obtained from wherever there is excess fat (the usual source is the lower abdomen, obtained by simple large-needle syringe-liposuction) which is then specially prepared to concentrate the stem cells and precursor cells. Together, these cells (collectively called ADRC or Adipose-Derived Rejuvenating Cells) are then injected wherever required (usually the face as facial repair and rejuvenation constitute over 90% of aesthetic therapies).

It is best combined with PRP (platelet-rich plasma prepared from the patient’s own blood) to provide support and nutrients to the rejuvenating cells.

Plasma is rich in factors that attract and support stem cells, and other healing components, and the combination is also good for preventing and reversing scars.

Face, breast, and buttock augmentation with fat transfer (ie usually taking fat from abdomen and directly transplanting to another part of the body) will have better take-up rates (otherwise up to 80% of the fat transferred die off or do not take-up) and are longer-lasting with the addition of ADRC and PRP. Even the ordinary aesthetic fillers last longer with ADRC and PRP.

ADRC injected into the blood has also been found to be beneficial for patients with heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and other diseases.

So when you opt for rejuvenation with stem cells or other forms of cell therapy, you will benefit from both the aesthetic effect on your skin and hair (look younger), and also from the regenerative effect on your internal organs (become younger).

If you can afford it, you too can look younger, and be younger, just like the rich-and-famous!

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. For further information, e-mailstarhealth@thestar.com.my. The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Source: The Star 31 May 2009


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