Stem cells to treat heart disease: Reality or Fiction?

Heart disease continues to rank as the number of killer of people all over the globe. Each year it is estimated that nearly 20-40 million people die from heart disease. The two common heart disorders associated with the highest mortality include congestive heart failure and an acute myocardial infarction. Over the years, many advances have been made in the treatment of heart disease but they all remain palliative. Most treatments only treatment of symptoms of heart disease and do not cure the disorder. When a patient suffers from a heart attack, the heart muscle in many cases is damaged and develops into a scar, which has no pumping ability. Once heart muscle is damaged, it cannot be reversed and despite all the presently available treatments, heart disease is progressive.


One of the major research accomplishments in the past decade has been the identification of human cardiac stem cells. In the years following this exciting discovery, researchers have been able to show that cardiac stem cells can in fact regenerate heart cells over the

course of one’s life. This observation rekindled hope of using stem cells to repair heart muscle damaged after an acute myocardial infarction. It also dispelled the long-held belief that the heart was not capable of repairing its own tissues after injury.


However, it is important to understand that no physician or scientist has been approved by the FDA to conduct stem cell studies in human hearts in the USA. All the work is experimental or done elsewhere.


Since that initial discovery of stem cells, scientists have been trying to come up with ways to help repair or replace damaged heart muscle cell. Today a lot more is known about individual heart cells, how they function and transmit electrical signals. In addition, the biochemistry and metabolism of heart cells is quite well known.


Presently researchers are able to grow embryonic heart cells in the laboratory. These cells have been obtained from heart biopsies performed during surgery. In addition, scientists have also induced-pluripotent stem cells that have been programed to behave like embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to become any type of heart cell.


Most of the stem cells and research on the heart has been done in the laboratory and the results have been promising. Animal studies show that cardiac stem cells can be used to repair and replace some heart muscle cells, but so far the researchers are not able to determine where these cells reside once they are injected and how they become activated.


Other research has shown the human pluripotent cells may also be useful in the treatment of heart disease. They may also help predict which patients are susceptible to adverse effects of drugs or how they respond to cancer treatment. Similarly, patches of stem cells have been applied with special adhesive glue to damaged areas of the heart to determine if the tissues can be regenerated.


The majority of stem cell studies on the heart have been done in Europe where researchers have injected bone marrow cells into the coronary vessels. Bone marrow cells are known to secrete factors that can help stimulate growth and also modulate the immune system. This is important because when stem cells are transplanted from one person to another, there may not be any need for chemotherapeutic agents. Over 1,000 patients have been transplanted with various populations of bone marrow stem cells for heart disease and so far the procedure has been found to be safe and partially beneficial.


Researchers are now looking at methods of inducing genes or growth factors that can helps stimulate the heart cells to grow. Other research involves use of endothelial progenitor stem cells that line the blood vessels, in the hope of making new vessels that can deliver oxygen to the damaged heart.


Most of the clinical trials are in the very early stages and the results will not be known for a few more years. It is also important to note that already many companies have been promoting use of stem cells for treatment of a variety of heart disorders. Consumers should be aware that these are not FDA approved therapies and there is no evidence that these treatments work, since no clinical trials have been completed. These “fee for service” companies charge thousands of dollars for providing unproven stem cell cures. Until more data are available, the adage, “Buyer Beware” should be heeded well when it comes to stem cell cures.



Stem cells to regenerate the lens in infants

Stem cells to regenerate the lens in infants

Stem cells have been in the news for the past few years. While they have been used sporadically to treat a number of medical disorders, there have been very few reports about actual regeneration of a body organ with these cells. With so many restrictions on stem cell use in western countries, not many institutions have used these cells to grow human organs.

Well now researchers from the Shiley Eye Institute at the University of San Diego combined with colleagues in China and have developed a new regenerative medical approach to treating congenital cataract in newborn infants. These researchers first tested the system in animals and then applied the technique to 12 newborn infants born with cataracts.

Cataracts are known to cause clouding of the lens in newborn infants and can cause blindness. The clouded lens is known to obstruct the passes of light to the retina resulting in poor visual information processing by the brain. The current treatment of cataracts in newborns is removal of the cataracts followed by corrective eyewear.

In this study the researchers used the ultimate power of the stem cells by regenerating human tissue. After the cataracts were removed in these infants, the integrity of the lens membrane was preserved to help give the lens shape. From prior research, the researcher left the lens epithelial stem cells intact along the edges.

After 3 months, a clear regenerated biconvex lens developed in all 12 infants. Six months after the surgery, all children who were treated in this fashion had a complete lens in both eyes, and the surgical openings made to the lens capsule were healed. Vision testing revealed that the children’s vision was as good as those who underwent conventional surgery.

This pioneering work shows that it is possible to regenerate human organs. The researchers are now looking to expand their research to help treat adults with cataracts. Cataracts affect millions of people all over the world and are a leading cause of blindness. In adults who undergo cataract surgery, the natural lens is removed, and an artificial intraocular lens is implanted. Unfortunately, more than 50% of adults who undergo this surgery are left with poor vision and the need for eyeglasses.

With this innovative research, there is hope that stem cells may be used to treat adults who undergo cataract surgery. However, the difficulty is that removal of cataracts in adults is quite difficult and the lens may not have any more residual stem cells to regenerate the organ.

Stem Cells 101

Over the past few years, there have been almost daily reports about stem cells and their miraculous medical benefits. There are countless reports of stem cells being used to treat patients with various illnesses. But what exactly are stem cells?

Stem cells are a group of undifferentiated cells that have the potential to differentiate into almost any type of specialized cell. In general stem cells can be derived from the embryo or adult tissues.  Adult stem cells can be found in almost any tissue but unlike the embryo their numbers are limited. The adult stem cells are usually in a non-dividing state and only become activated if there is tissue injury or a need for repair.

The adult stem cells have the ability to self renew indefinitely enabling them to generate several types of cells types or even regenerate an entire organ. It was initially believed that adult stem cells had a limited ability to differentiate only into the tissues of their origin but now evidence indicates that they can also differentiate into other cell types.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to differentiate into any cell or an organ-for example you can theoretically create a clone human. The embryonic stem cells are those that are derived from a 4-5 day old embryo.

When stem cells are isolated they are placed in a controlled environment that prevents them from specializing or differentiating but permits them to divide and replicate. This process allows for having a large number of stem cells when needed.

The potential to differentiate into other cell types further classifies stem cells. Embryonic cells are the most potent as they have the ability to differentiate into any cell type.

So how can stem cell help?
For many years, researchers have been studying stem cells for treatment of many medical disorders. Because these cells have the potential to differentiate into any cell type, their potential is unlimited. One of the major uses of stem cells has been to regenerate tissues. At the moment there is a serious shortage of organs for transplantation. Stem cells could potentially be used to grow a new organ. For example after a major burn to the skin, stem cells could be used to replace the burnt skin. In China, eye surgeons recently used stem cells to grow a new lens after removal of cataracts. Scientists are also studying stems cells for the treatment of diabetes.
Other studies involve using stem cells to replace brain tissues in people with Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.
There are currently studies using stem cells to replaced damaged heart tissue. Further studies are being conducted to treat several types of blood disorders (eg sickle cell anemia, leukemia and certain cancers of the bone marrow) with stem cells.
While the potential for stem cell is enormous, there are legal issues surrounding their use. In many countries, the production of embryonic stem cells is illegal, particularly in Europe and the US. In the USA, one can do research on stem cells but any type of human study requires permission. Further, in the USA one cannot use federal funds to do research on stem cells. At the moment, the use of stem cells to treat medical disease is restricted in the US. Until the ethical and legal challenges are sorted out, stem cell therapy will be limited to the lab the potential for abuse of these cells is enormous and this is the reason why there is caution. One does not want a crazy scientist or government to create a clone of humans for any sinister reasons.





My 2 cents on health


  1. Eat healthy and stay hydrated.

Eating a good balance of healthy foods, that contain elements such as fresh proteins and healthy fats, will give you the energy you need to workout, keep your fitness level up, and even achieve every day tasks more efficiently and with less effort. Along with eating healthy, one must drink plenty of water. Hydration is key to staying healthy and happy. Put down the soda, and pick up a refreshing glass of clean water.


  1. Exercise.

Many fitness instructors will suggest working out three to four times per week. This is an excellent place to start, and once you have your routine, you will find that it will be even easier to stick to your workout plan. You will begin to see the benefits, and it will only give you more motivation. Increased energy levels, easier breathing, and ease of movement are just a few benefits you will begin to notice.


  1. Ask for help.

Many of us are not accustomed to working out and/or eating right as a lifestyle. This is when seeking advice from a professional can unlock potentials you never even knew existed.


  1. Try new exercise or activities.

Trying new activities will allow you access to great opportunities. Learn a new skill, such as swimming, boxing, yoga, or even rock climbing. The possibilities really are endless, and you will find it is easier to enjoy time with your family and friends when you are active.


  1. Rest.

When you hear “getting healthy,” you probably think of all the exercise that comes with it. Many forget that resting is just as important as being active. When we forget to relax, we tend to stay stressed out. Being mentally rested and healthy is just as important as being physically fit.


  1. Enjoy life.

Don’t forget to stop and look at what you have around you. Enjoy time and activities with family and friends. A strong support system is key in reaching goals, and there is no better way to get that support than by enjoying time with the ones you love, while being active.

Who owns the cord?

My focus here is not on the immense value of cord blood cells in regenerative medicine but one central ethical issue surrounding the revolutionary science. Whether posthumous or not, the informed consent in issue donation is always a hazy area that is not easy to be governed under regulation. This is because we can’t conclude in legal terms as to who’s the real donor: the mother or her child?

Today, most of the procurement happens only after due consent but the larger question still remains: can this consent be deemed adequate and full-proof in law?  In today’s fast-paced times of invariably strained familial relations, one can’t rule out the possibility of a disputing claim made by a member overriding the mother’s consent. Imagine the complexities it could invite at the door of the clinic long after the donation has been made and utilized for good.

The million dollar (unanswered) question is: who owns the cord? The law is undecided – at times, it assumes the placenta or umbilicus to be part of the mother and in some cases, part of the child. The Genetic argument does favour the child but can’t rule out the claim of family including the father and siblings – both living and future. The logical way out is to make the consent process as inclusive as possible. Which means, rather than assuming things, one should seek the consent of both parents on behalf of their child.

But this is easier said than done. Property rights in human tissue are an unexplored area – both from the judicial and the more important ethical point of view. It’s clearly a long-drawn process of introspection and deliberation and we certainly can’t expect a silver bullet in the form of a solution.

The best we can do NOW is to trigger a global public discussion across all forums – medical or otherwise – on this critical issue that could one day truly unlock the phenomenal potential of this therapeutic stream.

Supply side Stem Cell Universe: EPC Value Prop

Whether therapeutic or research centric, the stem cell space can prove baffling, more so for a prospective entrant. Our 3D Approach (DEFINE-DESIGN-DEPLOY) has been specifically designed to help stem cell players move up the value chain in line with their scale and scope frameworks.Whether new entrants, VCs, entities from allied industries or existing players, we can help you with a tailored roadmap to tap opportunities, decipher technical intricacies, address regulatory approvals, build commensurate infrastructure, offer comprehensive services, create competitive edge and eventually capture better market share.
These are Incubation services for new entrants especially on market research, adoption of proven, validated stem cell lines, government and regulatory approvals, third party validations and legal certifications.
 These are blueprint services for state-of-the-art lab design, environmental control, quality control, cryopreservation technologies, procurement, validation & installation of equipment and tools, supply of consumables and infrastructure optimization in line with global best practices.
These are niche services including technical and scientific support, clinical facilitation, headhunting, operational management, value chain development, branding, PR and stakeholder communication, business development, product marketing and vale added content development spanning web, electronic and print media.
In addition, you can count on EPC Advisory for:
Patented and proven clinical expertise
Core Value chain of hospitals, clinics, doctors & researchers
Structured cost and service models
Accreditation of hospitals and clinics
Strategic business development
International campaigns, seminars and exhibitions
Streamlining immigration process for medical tourists
Creation of quality convalescence hubs

Stem Cell Marketing: It’s all about responsibility



Any Stem cell marketing initiative needs to address two principal realities. One, the constraints in the form of unavailability of product approvals and the legal and ethical framework, and, the need to reach out to as many patients and doctors as possible to create trajectories of high growth in this sunrise field. The  unavailability of product approvals is particularly painful as without them, stem cell companies can’t effect product and service endorsements.

Statutory enactments like the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955 prohibit us from directly advertising or promoting our value proposition to the target market. Notwithstanding the patented research and noteworthy clinical track record, we still have to reinforce the fact that ours is an experimental therapy conducted in consultation with medical practitioners which only strives to improve the quality of a patient’s life suffering from specified conditions.At the same time, it’s critical to reach out to prospective patients across the length and breadth of the country to further our cause.

Given such a constricting framework, it’s only a deeper knowledge of the psyche, needs and aspirations of prospective consumers that can help direct any marketing initiative in this space to create measurable value for all stakeholders. Needless to say, this also calls for unconventional and innovative modes to reach out to the target audience.

At EPC, we have always relied on disease-specific campaigns which are highly focused interactive sessions on the therapeutic potential of stem cell transplantations. The patient gains valuable insights into the disease and is made aware of the pros and cons of the stem cell applications through customized counseling and literature.  Not only have these end-user awareness camps built the patient’s faith in our credible promise, it eventually becomes our best brand building platform. Our fit-for-purpose content pervades all forms – flyers, brochures, case study repository, disease-specific booklets, website information, doctor & patient info kits, thought leadership communication, stakeholder communication and media interaction. The thought articulation is tailored to the needs, sensibilities and sensitivities of the target audience. The emphasis is on reaching out effectively without diluting the corporate conviction.

Integral to our core is our Value chain ecosystem where we are creating a potent medical platform for product approvals through strategic tie-ups with institutions, hospitals and clinics. We have already tied up with AIIMS and Pushpanjali Cross Hospital. We have established EPC centers at vantage locations in West Bengal, Gujarat, Delhi NCR, Kanpur, Rajkot, Vadodara & Silliguri and representative offices at Delhi & Ghaziabad. Going forward, we shall set up centers in all principle towns and cities. 

The ultimate purpose is to create potent collaborations between EPC, which possesses proven clinical expertise in stem cell transplantations and healthcare providers, who seek to appropriate these progressive methods. The insights from this endeavour will also help pull patients and their kith and kin contemplating stem cell transplants with the help of reliable clinical information. Today, they have to rely solely on distant testimonials and instant recommendations. 

We are also creating a common platform to educate a larger group of doctors on the evolving paradigms, myths and realities of stem cell therapeutics. This initiative will more than enhance our ally base as patients invariably depend on their family physicians for credible advice. We are taking conscious steps to reduce the polarity between scientists, doctors and patients. Through our platform, we will help the scientific and medical fraternity to have an ongoing proactive dialogue with the community at large including patients and volunteers.

Our marketing strategy is aimed at establishing our USP in the market as the only providers with patented technology and proven clinical success. I am certain that our competitive edge and ensuing success milestones will eventually pave the way for much needed clarity and legislation on the codes of conduct.  This will only help the market in institutionalize a need-over-hype approach in stem cell therapeutics in the time to come.

Anti-aging: It’s about systemic rejuvenation, not sensational reversal


There’ re countless misconceptions and pre-conceived notions revolving around stem cell therapeutic applications in the anti-ageing space. Most stem from the innate human desire to stay youthful for ever, a wish as unrealistic as overcoming death. And contrary to popular perception, the desperation to beat one’s age is not a tinsel town obsession alone, it’s universal. We all want to remain young and vivacious and forever.

Precisely why it’s of utmost importance to acknowledge the facts and steer clear of the fiction when we talk of anti-ageing. Ageing is inevitable like death. It’s not a disease in the conventional sense but it can be home to many diseases if we are negligent about its untimely or abnormal progression.

When we talk of stem cell applications to counter the effects of aging, we essentially mean a Systemic Rejuvenation Program (SRP) aimed at enhancing quality of life and boosting our minds and bodies to be able to do the things that make life meaningful and purposeful.

To appreciate SRP in the right spirit, it’s essential to put the aging process under the microscope. Our bodily cells constantly restore themselves during our life span. For instance, erythrocytes last for 120 days after which they are destroyed and replaced by new erythrocytes formed from bone marrow stem cells. Intestine cells live for 8 to 10 days and consequently replaced by new cells. When progressive decrease in stem cells disturbs this restoration process, the aging process is induced.

Aging is either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic Aging, accounting for 10 per cent of our aging, is inherited by virtue of genes, a continuous process that normally begins with mid-30s. Extrinsic aging, on the other hand, is induced by external factors like sun exposure, gravity, and life style abnormalities like lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and alcohol & tobacco abuse. Whatever the type, symptoms generally include wrinkled skin, hallowed cheeks & eye sockets, Loss of fat and firmness, bone loss and pigmentation. When this happens prematurely, we should sense something’s seriously wrong.

Stem Cell systemic rejuvenation therapy is a relatively new but very effective breakthrough in the medical field. It is a radically scientific practice that helps improve quality and longevity of life. Stem cell based therapies have successfully demonstrated noticeably reduced signs of aging, improved posture, mobility & quality of life. Stem cell transplants repair damaged, dying or dead cells to restore functionality and vitality in the skin, organs and tissues. Tissue engineering aided by stem cell research and technology is now potent with rich therapeutic possibilities. Stem cell based therapies are now focused on engineering adult stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells and fetal stem cells to develop or morph into the type of tissue necessary to restore optimal function and quality of life.

The extensive benefits of stem cell transplants vary from case to case but generally assist in the regeneration and revitalization of core internal organs and tissues. The revitalization of critical organs like liver, heart, and kidneys and core systems like the haemic and lymphatic systems obviously result in enhanced quality of life and functionality generally reflected through radiant appearance, uplifting moods, high energy levels and better sexual drive. Main effects observed in patients after fetal stem cell transplantation encompass all levels of organization and functioning of human body, and are arranged in a systemic way.

Our study of stem cell biology has thrown new light on the aging process in the form of a pioneering stem-spaces depletion theory. Stem-spaces are the pool of regional stem cells (mesenchymal, neural, hematopoietic stem cells, the basal stem cells of the skin, intestine, endocrine epithelium etc) called upon to compensate cells loss in specific tissues in the process of human remodeling organism. Human remodeling is an uninterrupted renewal of cells composition of all tissues and organs by cells of stem-spaces throughout the entire lifespan in which all differentiated cells have limited term of life. In our opinion, particular regional multi-potent stem cells create the stem-spaces of an adult organism.

According to our theory, aging is defined as a permanent reduction in the size of the body stem-spaces. The number of cells in stem-spaces defines the level of proliferative capacity of each stem-space while the dimensions determine the rate of aging of organs, tissues and systems. Expansion of the body’s stem-spaces for increasing the longevity and quality of human life is possible through application of allogeneic fetal progenitor cells.

EPC has developed a comprehensive systemic rejuvenation program with fetal stem cell based applications. Most anti-aging preparations and programs are aimed at stimulating the reparative systems of the human body that already function at the limit. Achieving rapid but short-term stimulation of the body resources only complicates this problem in the future and, in our opinion, does more harm than good. EPC therapy doesn’t stimulate restorative resources, it substitutes them to help restore a range of vital body functions, adjust metabolism, balance hormones and improve the nutrition and blood supply of tissues and organs; that undoubtedly lead to improvement of work capacity, prevention of different diseases, skin regeneration and enhancement of life quality. Younger the person, more steady and enduring is the effect that can be retained for more than 10 years. Benefits of fetal stem cell transplants and tissue extracts include: Rapid and substantial improvement of mental and physical activities of patients, stabilization and improvement of mood, positive psycho physiological changes, restoration of suppressed haematopoiesis and restoration of the immune systemic competence.

Stem cells beyond Milestones – Miles to Go

The story of stem cells is the story of life itself…A fascinating account of countless, miniscule custodians of new life in the human body,

inherently capable of regeneration and repair …In the eternal fight against disease and disorder.

How and when did we first discover these micro champions?

There can be different answers to this primordial question depending on how we look at it…And there’s nothing right or wrong about any of them.

We could trace their history in Greek and Indian mythology in the miraculous regenerative abilities of umpteen deities and demons…

We could attach their discovery to the scientific literature of German biologist Ernst Haeckel…

We could say the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings proved the first spark when scientists were studying the fatal radiation effect on blood cells…

The finding could also be attributed to Russian academic Alexander Maximow whose pioneering theory established the multi-potency of blood cells…

Or we could also link the ‘first steps’ to a host of fascinating breakthroughs – either the first frog cloning experiments of the 1950s, the first bone marrow transplant for treating leukemia in 1969, the advent of in vitro fertilization in 1978 or the first umbilical cord blood transplant in 1988…

At EPC, we see the stem cell timeline not so much in terms of milestones tagged with ‘first ever’ claims. We regard it as an eternal voyage of earnest breakthroughs that has stretched the possibilities of medical advancement to unexpected territories in fascinating ways.

A crusade driven by pure altruism to serve the larger cause of regenerative medicine that, in the process, aims to:

…secure hope from the clutches of hype,

…eliminate the friction linked to the science, and,

…explode the fiction thrust on it.

A study of history becomes most fruitful if it helps in introspection. We definitely cherish every single milestone in the glorious history of regenerative medicine, but our mind is transfixed on every single possibility of a collaboration or co-creation to help establish stem cell transplantation as an effective mainstream clinical application for the treatment of disease and disorder and improvement of life quality and longevity.

Miles to Go…

Medical Tourism – Story of Evolving Paradigms

Medical Tourism is an emerging and evolving subset of the health care industry which can be defined as “Receiving medical treatment in a destination different from the native country which provides high quality and cost effective care and cure”

Contrary to popular perception, the ‘care and cure’ extends way beyond cosmetic procedures to include intricate surgeries and stem cell transplants as well. In fact, with this sunrise sector expanding its roots and branches across the globe, medical tourism will increasingly cater to high end medical treatments and services, both in complexity and advancement. It goes without saying that some of the medical tourism hubs will grow faster than the rest on the wings of proven expertise, better resources, quality service and cost effective rates. The global medical tourism market is currently believed to be growing at a CAGR of 9% but the continued momentum is likely to up the growth by leaps and bounds.

India’s hope lies in its inherent scope – whether in terms of geography, skilled resources, amicable culture or cost effective rates. At the same time, India needs to rise to the occasion vis-à-vis Latin American and Southeast Asian countries, especially in respect of critical areas including:

• Mitigating risk of malpractices and undue litigation
• Streamlined allied services including travel, accommodation and insurance
• Well defined and hassle-free regulatory environment
• Minimal involvement of Third party players

If India does address the challenges on major fronts, the hope will indeed be fueled by the scope in the coming years. Today, the popular treatment options for medical tourists coming to India include Alternative Medicine, Bone marrow Transplant, Cardiac Bypass, Eye Surgery and Hip Replacement. But I have no doubt whatsoever that in the coming years, we can make this list as exhaustive as possible to include Cosmetic Surgery, Dental Care, Gender Realignment, Heart Surgery, Obesity Surgery, Oncology and Orthopedics, Organ Transplants, Cardiovascular Surgery, Stem Cell Transplants and allied high end procedures.

Of course, this transformation will call for substantial investments by the value chain of industry players. Among the critical steps would be:

• Accreditation from organizations to facilitate hospital or clinic selection
• Collaboration with global players to create worldwide brand identity
• Packaging follow-up care and coverage for medical tourists
• Initiating potent forums and platforms for doctor-patient interaction
• Value chain of clinics, organizations, institutes and experts to serve the larger cause