I know of a dozen or so Americans who have amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS) who are going to Kiev, Ukraine for the treatment
that is mentioned in this (see below) article.
Having been to the USSR (including Ukraine two times) six times
in the 1980s, it is hard for me to get past all of the corruption
I saw while there. It is almost impossible for me to think there
is any truth to the article. Can anyone here in the SftP group
give me suggestions as to how tell if the clinic in Kiev is a
medical fraud thing, or if it has some merit?
Sincerely, Bob Broedel (Tallahassee).
SOURCE: Casper Star Tribune (www.trib.com)
DATE : November 27, 2001
AUTHOR: Tom Morton
Casper man credits stem cell treatment in Ukraine
By TOM MORTON
Star-Tribune staff writer
Don Cook can walk again.
Not necessarily a nimble or fast walk, but certainly a walk more
powerful and controlled than the ALS-caused meager shuffle two years
ago that barely transported him from the living room to the kitchen
of his small house on Washington Street, he said.
"It doesn't take long where it will waste away a muscle," Cook said
of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as "Lou Gehrig's disease."
He credits his recovery in part to embryonic stem cell treatments he
received in March at the Emcell Clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, he said.
"I had all kind of confidence it would improve my condition," Cook
said. "I was the ninth person to get this in this clinic," he said
as he watched a documentary on the clinic's Web site at
Cook, 69, was diagnosed with ALS in 1999, a progressive disease from
an unknown cause that attacks nerve cells in the brain and the spinal
According to the ALS Association, the disease eventually kills these
neurons, blocking nourishment to the muscles and causing them to
waste away. The brain then cannot initiate and control muscle movement.
"With all voluntary muscle action affected, patients in the latter
stages of the disease become totally paralyzed. Yet, through it all,
for the vast majority of people, their minds remain unaffected,"
according to the ALS Association's Web site (www.alsa.org).
About 5,000 Americans a year are diagnosed with ALS, and about
30,000 have the disease at any one time. After diagnosis, half of
them will live at least three years, 20 percent will live at least
five years, and up to 10 percent will live more than 10 years,
according to the association.
Cook's ALS damaged the nerves and muscles in his legs and left arm,
Scientists are researching both the causes and treatments for the
disease, according to the association.
Last year, Cook participated in a clinical trial of a drug for the
treatment of ALS, but his doctor told him to quit because the drug
had no effect, he said.
Meanwhile, Cook learned of the success of stem cell treatments on
laboratory animals, the work of EmCell, and its potential for
diseases such as Parkinson's disease, heart disease, diabetes and
ALS, he said. According to the clinic's Web site, "infinite
opportunities have been predicted for Stem Cells as a source of
'spare parts' for the human body. At the same time, substantial
experience has been already accumulated in clinical application of
Embryonic Stem Cell Transplantation."
But the stem cell treatments don't exist yet in the United States
because it's only being investigated in laboratories, said Lucie
Bruijn, scientific director of the ALS Association. "Although it's
extremely promising, there's a huge challenge for it to be a
therapy for ALS," said Bruijn, a biochemist in Connecticut. "It's
not clear at this point that it's going to be an effective therapy."
She would not put a time frame on when stem cell research will
progress to the point that it will be used for therapy, she said.
But the ALS Association intends to press for more funding and safe,
effective research, Bruijn said.
While ethical concerns will remain about using embryonic stem cells,
she underscored the vast difference between that research and
cloning. Stem cells can come from a variety of sources such as
embryos, placentas, umbilical cords or adult bone marrow, according
to the "Stem Cell FAQ" at the Web site (www.aarp.org/bulletin).
But use of embryonic stem cells has sparked an intense ethical
debate because extracting these stem cells -- basic building blocks
for body tissue -- destroys the embryo, according to the AARP and
the National Institutes of Health at its Web site
Many, though not all, opponents of abortion regard the destruction
of the embryo as the same as the taking of human life.
Cook, too, knows of the ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem
cell research, but does not believe it involves taking human life,
he said. "To me, I can't see why they can't let them go and do all
this work," Cook said. "It has nothing to do with a fetus."
During Cook's education about the disease, he learned about the Emcell
Clinic in Kiev and its work with stem cell treatments, sent the
clinic his medical records, and received approval in January to get
treatment, he said.
The clinic asked for $15,000 in cash up front for the treatments,
and Cook paid several thousand dollars more for air fare and housing
for eight days, he said. Insurance did not cover any of these costs,
he added. Cook received a stem cell treatment for his immune system
on the first day of his visit, and the results occurred literally
overnight, he said. The next day, Cook could walk, he said. He
received other treatments later that week, and returned home.
Walking was wonderful, maybe too wonderful. After Cook returned to
Wyoming, he was visiting relatives in Gillette, took too big a step,
fell backwards, and broke his left arm, which was still immobile
from ALS, he said. After his arm was set, the stem cells "attacked
the arm and healed the bone," faster than either he or his doctor
expected, Cook said.
Besides the stem cell treatment, he also maintains a regimen of
physical therapy to strengthen the muscles in his legs, he said.
Physical therapy alone, he added, would not accomplish anything
without the stem cell treatment.
Cook returned to Kiev in August for a six-day stem cell treatment,
this time costing $10,000, he said. The second treatment did not
have the same dramatic results as the first treatment, but Cook
believes it has kept the ALS from spreading, he said. "It hasn't
gotten any worse." He plans to return for a third treatment in
March. After these three series of treatments end, Cook expects he
will need to go through the same series again in two or three years,
he said. By then, Cook hopes that stem cell treatments will be
widely available in the United States. "If they don't get something
like that here, a lot of people are going to die," Cook said.