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Patients Struggle to Afford Adult Stem Cell Therapies

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer While the Obama administration prepares to dump billions of taxpayer dollars into the controversial and now obsolete embryonic stem cell research, people who have been helped with adult stem cell technology are struggling to pay the bills because of insufficient funding. One of the most glaring examples is the case of 21 year-old Bradley Koenning from Westoff, Texas who was totally paralyzed in a dirt bike accident. Bradley had no feeling from the neck down and was unable to feel his bladder which made him incapable of knowing when he needed to use the restroom. He also had such low blood pressure he would frequently pass out. His parents learned about innovative new stem cell treatments using cells taken from the umbilical cord of new born babies. However, according to Bradley’s mother, because these particular treatments are not yet approved in the United State, he is forced to travel to Lima, Peru to receive the injections. Each shot costs a staggering $25,000. But they work. After treatment, Bradley regained feeling from the chest up, was able to feel his bladder again, and his blood pressure stabilized so that he is no longer passing out. “Our hope is he will be able to walk again with this treatment. I think it should be available in the U.S.,” Mrs. Koenning said. “There are so many people with spinal cord injuries that need these shots but can’t afford them. Since they aren’t approved, insurance won’t cover them.” Families who wish to take advantage of the potential healing benefits of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood can opt to store them in private banks, but must assume the costs themselves. Costs to store the blood range anywhere from $900 to $2,000 for the first year and $90 a year thereafter. A recent success story is that of Dallas Hextell who, at the age of eight months, was diagnosed with cerebral paralysis, a condition caused by neural damage due to oxygen deprivation during birth. His parents consulted various neurologists, but the possibility of a recovery was virtually non-existent. However, at the time of his birth, his parents paid to have his umbilical cord blood stored. Nine months after Dallas was diagnosed, he was given an opportunity to participate in a Duke University clinical study using stem cells from his own cord blood. A week after the transplant, Dallas was suddenly able to speak, calling for his mother. Dallas is now two years old and is able to walk on his own and do what was previously believed to be impossible for a child with cerebral paralysis. Meanwhile, embryonic stem cells, which will now receive billions in federal funding, have produced no cures and have been known to cause tumors and other problems during clinical testing. The recent case of an Israeli teen who developed brain tumors after being injected with embryonic stem cells in a Moscow clinic brought worldwide attention to the fact that science remains unable to conquer this grave problem with embryonic stem cell research. In spite of the risks, however, the FDA has approved the first human trials with embryonic stem cells which will take place this summer on patients with spinal cord injuries. The trials, to be conducted by Geron Corp., are primarily aimed at testing the safety of the procedure and to determine if the treatments will return any sensation or movement in the patients’ legs. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace. http://www.womenofgrace.com

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