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Friday, August 22, 2008

What do I have to lose?: Experimental stem cell therapy

I have been tossing and turning all night wondering where I get my strength, but I dig deep and find the answer, always, somewhere in my mind's abyss. A friend told me yesterday [now a year ago] that this will be my calling when I get better to breathe life back into people and talk about my experience with this illness and my journey to get better.

Drew Schemera, 35, wrote this in his blog, The Journey, a year ago before going from his Connecticut home to Beike Biotechnology in China for experimental stem cell therapy, six months after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease), and being given a life expectancy of 2.5 years.

He feels he did the right thing. There were "no clinical trials in the USA of any significance and no cure on the horizon," he wrote. "I made a choice to come to China and work my butt off in therapy and change my diet, and I'm slowing it [ALS] down. I probably will die from ALS, but I'll be damned if I'm not going down swinging! What do I have to lose?"

However, experts at the International Society for Stem Cell Research and elsewhere caution that professional standards for stem cell therapy have not yet been set. Dr. George Daley, the president of the Society, decries a "misconception by some patients that the cure is already here." He adds, "We need to be clear that the path to cures is a long and arduous one."

Advice: Make your own critical decisions, after careful thought.

Thanks to Neil Munshi for the source story in the Boston Globe of June 13.

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