How stem cell treatments can make medicine effective and affordable

Throughout history, healthcare has gradually transformed from a mystical art into a defined science. While there are still challenges to be faced, life-saving stem cell treatments are revolutionising the industry

 
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Precious Cells continues to invest in technologies to enhance global accessibility to life-saving cell-based therapies

Author: Husein Salem, CEO of Precious Cells

3 Jan 2018

In the field of healthcare, what seems extraordinary today is tomorrow’s routine. Throughout history, humans have adapted to our environment in different ways. This has required overcoming illness, learning how to heal injuries and combatting pandemics.

As we moved from caves to villages, villages to cities and, finally, cities to metropolises, our healthcare provision has evolved from lone village healers to complex and organised hospitals. During this transition, mankind has mastered the art of healing by moving from a concept of mystic processes to a scientific and factual approach – and our knowledge continues to grow.

Many developments that seemed extraordinary at the time of their discovery have become part of the daily routine for medical practitioners. But, what’s more, they have been turned into solutions within reach of ordinary people, improving their quality of life considerably.

Healing the economy
Among the multitudes of medical breakthroughs mankind has witnessed over thousands of years, aspirin and penicillin are outstanding examples of the evolution of healing and healthcare provision. The aspirin we know and rely on today came into being in the late 1890s, when Felix Hoffmann, a chemist at Bayer in Germany, used it to alleviate his father’s rheumatism.

However, people are often surprised to learn that aspirin can also be found in jasmine, beans, peas, clover and certain grasses and trees – all items healers in days gone by used to mystically alleviate pain. Indeed, Hippocrates, the Greek physician and philosopher who lived from about 460 to 377 BC, wrote that willow leaves and bark relieved pain and fevers.

Today, aspirin is relied upon for far more than merely reducing fevers and killing pain: it’s used as a blood thinner to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, and plays an important role in the prevention of certain cancers. Furthermore, in economic terms, it’s estimated that aspirin helps global healthcare providers save as much as $700bn (€594.4bn) per year.

Adult stem cells appear to be the next big milestone in the continuous evolution
of healthcare

Aspirin has transitioned from a mystic healing art to a scientific and factual treatment. It’s now accessible and affordable to the masses and has a massively positive impact on the provision of healthcare. Every year, aspirin saves millions of lives and alleviates the suffering of many more.

The second best known example of the evolution of healthcare is penicillin, which was discovered by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in 1928. Since its development during the Second World War – in which its powerful antibiotic properties helped prevent and treat infections from battle wounds – penicillin has saved millions of lives.

Penicillin’s active ingredient is found in Penicillium mould and, just like aspirin, has been used since ancient times. Ancient civilisations in Egypt, Greece and India used the mould grown on bread or plants to treat infections. Again, like aspirin, penicillin has saved and changed millions of lives. But only in today’s world has its positive impact become measurable in terms of costs. Thanks to penicillin, healthcare providers and governments around the world are saving billions of dollars.

Looking ahead
Just as aspirin and penicillin have revolutionised healthcare in the past, stem cells are the clearest opportunity to provide humans with a potentially life-saving solution in the future. The global population is growing beyond the seven billion mark, and demographics are ageing the world over. The number of centenarians in the UK, for example, has risen by 65 percent in the last decade.

Furthermore, our genetic makeup has become more diverse than ever, with opportunities to travel and settle abroad more prevalent in today’s society. Consequently, healthcare provision is increasingly being challenged by demographic trends, and will continue to be challenged by several factors, most notably the complexity of the conditions that need to be treated, and the affordability and accessibility of their cures.

Nowadays, healthcare professionals, institutions, policymakers, economists, governments and patients from around the world are looking at different sustainability options. One of the issues currently being researched is how to spend more on healthcare via increased taxation. Another is the development of strategies to save on healthcare by making it more efficient.

Stem cells are the clearest opportunity to provide humans with a potentially life-saving solution in the future

Furthermore, the combination of private and public healthcare is the subject of current research, as is the development of new solutions and therapies.

At this critical juncture, adult stem cells appear to be the next big milestone in the continuous evolution of healthcare. Although stem cells are not a mystic or a magical healing alternative, they have always been there, much like aspirin and penicillin. But, what’s more, they are natural components already inside our bodies, helping us to grow and adapt to our environment every day.

They heal us after illness or injury, and defend our bodies against harsh external conditions. They do this by renewing and regenerating lost cells and tissues. Bone marrow, for example, has been used to treat certain blood cancers, and we now understand that it is the haematopoietic stem cells within the bone marrow that contribute to this success.

However, the shortage of bone marrow and genetic diversity has pushed us to find other sources of these haematopoietic stem cells, namely in peripheral blood and umbilical cord blood. Today, stem cells from umbilical cord blood are routinely used to treat approximately 80 medical conditions including leukaemia, lymphoma, immune disorders and anaemia. However, affordability and accessibility remain a challenge.

Connecting lifesavers
This is why our goal at Precious Cells is to transform the future of global healthcare by connecting all seven billion of the world’s potential stem cell donors – everyone on Earth could be a lifesaver. We firmly believe this is the beginning of a revolution to make stem cell treatments affordable and accessible.

It is our mission to provide universal access to stem cell treatments in our lifetime, making effective, affordable and personalised medicine a reality. We do this by constantly innovating, exploring and applying pioneering technology to the delivery of stem cells to those patients, clinicians and researchers who need them.

We are actively working to help people prepare for their own and their loved ones’ future wellbeing by enabling them to store their own stem cells for future treatment. We also partner with a number of NHS trusts in the UK, enabling people to donate their stem cells to be used as part of a lifesaving treatment, or in vital research to further the advancement of stem cell therapies.

Precious Cells will continue to invest in technologies to enhance global accessibility to cell-based therapies that will ensure affordable and accessible healthcare solutions for all. Stem cells are already saving lives today, and they will save even more tomorrow. Only by connecting the seven billion lifesavers worldwide can we truly achieve affordable and accessible healthcare.