Stem cells

It appears that the fad has already started fading. And the vain are letting their desire pass off - for the time being.

What is it that they are abstaining from? It is the prospect of many well-off individuals into submitting to stem cell therapy. The medical intervention uses live cells from mammals injected into a patient. It is widely done in a number of European cities.

The promised benefits from stem cell therapy, among others, is that it restores ''exuberance, alertness, and virility,'' hopefully, akin to those of a 20-year-old human being.

So, why is the enthusiasm and fascination of the procedure disappearing from among the country's moneyed sector - composed of the vain, the hypochondriacs, those who are eternally seeking the fountain of youth, and those who do not know what to do with their disposable moolah. (The therapy reportedly has a P500,000 price tag.)

For four consecutive days last week, media accounts about the contentious death of three congressmen after receiving stem cell therapy abroad dominated front-page stories and subsequent prime time TV news programs. (Manila Bulletin, June 25, 26 and 28, 2013)

Was their death blamed on stem cell therapy? News stories quoted relatives of the deceased as saying they succumbed to pneumonia. The 'Bulletin' story did not name the deceased.

But the Philippine Medical Association has always been suspicious of stem cell treatment. ''There are disadvantages,'' officials said. The statement reportedly claimed that the procedure done in Germany, for example, is ''xenogenic'' in substance. It involves the injection of animal-based stem cells to patients.

What the association apparently endorses is ''autologous'' stem cell treatment. The therapy is done with the use of the patient's own blood, bone marrow, and fat. Outside of this approach, the PMA apparently is skeptical as to their efficacy.

Another factor that is dousing cold water on prospective patients of stem cell therapy is fakery. We were informed via media reports of bootleg stem cell therapy here and overseas.

Certainly, it cannot be discounted that some patients who sought this kind of treatment ended up with dubious remedy being administered by non-medical persons or by pseudo-medical specialists.

For instance, one radio announcer, quoting some Filipino travelers, said, ''Stem cell clinics are virtually found in every street corner in Bonn and Berlin.''

The fakery does not end there. There are also reports of some alleged German doctors setting up shop in five-star hotels offering stem cell treatment here. They have allegedly converted some rooms as instant clinics. (ABS-CBN 'Bandila' news program, June 27, 2013)

Curiously, in spite of those disquieting reports, there has been no expected police operations against those supposedly transient clinics.

As a backgrounder: What is cellular therapy? In 1931, a university professor and medical practitioner named Paul Niehans discovered cell therapy. The scientific method was developed to ''regenerate human tissue and revitalize the human body.''

How is it done? ''It consists of implanting cell extracts of mammals selected for their biological value to modulate the immune system,'' of a patient. It reportedly''improves the function of certain specific organs and enhances the vitality of the entire organism.''

The Swiss Dr. Niehans became famous for his medical innovation. He treated thousands of patients, including the late Pope Pius XII, Saudi Arabia King IbnSaoud, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and Hollywood legends Charlie Chaplain, and Cary Grant.

The achievements of Dr. Niehans were serialized in a local women's magazine entitled, The Man Who Turned Back the Hands of Time, in the 1960s.