Research into Treatment Options for Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy (MD), characterized by a loss of muscle mass, can become apparent in adulthood, but most often is visible with childhood symptoms. A type of MD, Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), affects one in every 3,500 boys. While there is no known cure for the muscular dystrophies, medications and therapy can help to slow the disease and manage symptoms. Corticosteroids are used to preserve muscle strength, but they have negative side effects with long-term use, including a weakening of bones and weight gain. Heart medications like beta-blockers can be used, depending on how MD affects the patient’s heart. Various forms of therapy are useful in slowing the progress of MD, and devices like braces and walkers can prolong mobility. Because there is no known cure, current recommended treatment options focus on improving mobility and quality of life for the patient. Most people have heard of the world’s most famous muscular dystrophy patient, Stephen Hawking. This most famous living scientist has outlived all expectations.

The Potential of Stem Cells

There has been a keen interest in using stem cells to regenerate muscle tissue, and there has been success in using human stem cells for MD in mice. However, there is hope that adipose-derived stem cells may be effective in regenerating muscle cells and fibers damaged by MD. Research into the effectiveness of stem cells for MD is still ongoing, but patients assessing this new option should be aware of the fundamental differences between the existing forms of stem cell therapy. The long-term prognosis for muscular dystrophy may be discouraging, but patients and families considering stem cell therapy should consult with their physician and make sure they keep up with the standard, orthodox treatments.

Our SVF Protocols at GCSCRMC

Stem cell research is currently exploring a wide variety of different applications for different stem cells. Our preferred source at GCSCRMC is adipose tissue of the patient, giving adipose derived stem cells (ADSC). We do not use embryonic stem cells because they are among the most controversial; and those from bone marrow (hematopoietic stem cells – HSCs) are relatively tedious to extract. Hence at our GCSCRMC facility, we use the ADSCs contained in the stromal vascular fraction (SVF), which is easily obtained during a mini-liposuction procedure. It should be mentioned that, owing to their sparse numbers, HSCs require expansion by culture to increase their numbers to therapeutic levels. Our procedure simply extracts and concentrates the stem cells already present in adipose tissue, without the need for expansion by culture, making the treatment much less costly and much less time-consuming. Hence, our protocol for procuring and deploying SVF to target the damaged areas, takes no more than 3 hours. Because the SVF is extracted from the patient’s own body, the risks of rejection and complications are minimized. As with other serious medical conditions, treatment options for muscular dystrophy should be discussed with the patient’s physician.

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