Deccan Chronicle

Million-dollar Therapies

Deccan Chronicle.| Swati Sharma

Published on: August 24, 2023 | Updated on: August 24, 2023
The therapeutic potential of stem cells is based on their ability to split into various cell types, promoting tissue repair and regeneration.

The therapeutic potential of stem cells is based on their ability to split into various cell types, promoting tissue repair and regeneration.

Stem cells. Genes. Telomere extension. Platelet-Rich Plasma. These are just a few of the regenerative cell-based therapies that can help you not only live longer, but also feel younger.

As healthcare costs rise and wellness becomes an increasingly exclusive privilege of the elite, ultra wealthy populations are willing to spend money on more innovative and risky therapies, almost all of which have out-of-pocket costs, such as gene therapy and regenerative cell-based therapies.

Bryan Johnson, a wealthy entrepreneur, who is 45 going on 18, wants to be biologically young again. So much so that he expects to spend more than $2 million this year alone on a variety of medical interventions and tests aimed at making him look younger.  Oliver Zolman, the project’s 29-year-old lead doctor and "regenerative medicine physician," is committed to "helping reverse the ageing process in every one of Johnson’s organs."

Repair, replace, regenerate

Regenerative medicine seeks to repair, replace or regenerate cells, tissues and organs in order to restore or establish normal function. This field combines a number of scientific disciplines, such as cellular therapies, tissue engineering, and stem cell research, to provide novel treatments for a wide range of illnesses and wounds. India has emerged as a hub for stem cell-based therapies.
"The efficiency of our bodies’ natural repair processes decreases as we age, resulting in the emergence of a wide range of age-related conditions. In this cutting-edge therapy, stem cells are extracted from a patient’s own body, typically from adipose tissue or bone marrow. The cells are then painstakingly isolated and concentrated. The enriched stem cells are then strategically reintroduced into the body, with the goal of rejuvenating specific areas or systems," says Dr Sagar Jawale, founder, Stem Cells Therapy India.

The therapeutic potential of stem cells is based on their ability to split into various cell types, promoting tissue repair and regeneration. "They have the ability to replace damaged cells, stimulate the production of growth factors, and modulate the immune response, all of which help to reverse the effects of ageing. Stem cell therapy has shown promise in addressing a variety of age-related issues, including improved skin elasticity and wrinkle reduction, as well as improved cognitive function and overall vitality," adds Dr Jawale.

Enormous price tags

Stem cell therapies are prohibitively expensive, costing hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars per patient and treatment. These life-changing treatments are out of reach for the vast majority of people due to their cost.
"The high cost of these therapies is primarily due to the fact that they are experimental. Also, the costs are associated with research, development, and regulation. Because many of these therapies are considered cutting-edge and involve advanced technologies, substantial investment in scientific research, clinical trials and manufacturing processes is required," explains Dr Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher & Founder of StemRx BioScience Solutions India.

"The intricate nature of stem cell manipulation and administration requires specialized equipment, highly skilled professionals, and stringent quality control measures, all contributing to elevated operational costs. Furthermore, the exclusivity of the treatment contributes to its expense. As a novel and potentially groundbreaking intervention, anti-aging stem cell therapy has a limited pool of providers, allowing them to set higher prices. Intellectual property rights and patent-related issues can also influence pricing strategies," says Dr Jawale.
The cost of stem cell, gene therapy and telomere extension treatments can also vary significantly depending on a number of factors, including the type of treatment, the clinic or facility where the treatment is administered, the location, and the patient’s specific circumstances.

The cost of stem cell therapy is influenced by the type of stem cells used (autologous or allogeneic), the number of treatments needed, and the medical condition being treated. Some clinics, for example, provide stem cell therapy for joint pain at a lower cost than more complex treatments for conditions such as spinal cord injuries.

Gene therapy is a rapidly evolving field, and the cost varies greatly depending on the treatment’s complexity, the type of genetic disorder being addressed, and whether it involves modifying a patient’s own cells (ex vivo) or using viral vectors (in vivo). The cost can go up to millions of dollars in some cases. Because of the small patient population, treatment of rare diseases is more expensive.

Telomere extension therapies are still in the early stages of development. As a result, providing a cost estimate for such treatments is difficult.

An evolving process

The future of these regenerative therapies is promising, but they are not without challenges. "These therapies may become more effective, safer and potentially more affordable as research and technology advance. Regulatory agencies, on the other hand, must strike a balance between ensuring patient safety and allowing innovative therapies to progress. Also, the accessibility of these treatments to a larger population will be determined by factors such as insurance coverage and healthcare policies. While these therapies are currently only available to the wealthy, there is hope that as the field evolves and becomes more established, they will become more widely available," says Dr Pradeep Mahajan.

Equipped to please

Dr. Rashmi Shetty, celebrity dermatologist, author and entrepreneur, says, "It’s become a fad for people to reduce their biological age, whether at the cellular level or on the surface. One device used for the purpose is the laser. Then there is radio frequency and high-intensity ultrasound. Mechanical techniques include micro-needling and micro-needling combined with radio frequency.  Essentially, the goal is to stimulate collagen and elastin production. There are also bio stimulators, which are injections of body-identical tissues like hyaluronic acid that stimulate collagen," says Dr. Rashmi. "Calcium hydroxyapatite could be used for the same purpose. You also use your own bio products, such as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) and Growth Factor Concentrate (GFC), as also Exosomes, which are found naturally in blood and other body tissues," she explains.

Age-defying supplements

There are numerous options for supplementing regenerative therapies and help you get the most out of the treatment. "We recommend supplements to our patients. They provide the micronutrients the body needs to fight free radicals that cause ageing, and inflammation that fights against or destroys the good cells that attack them. To feel better, you need supplements and specific micronutrients to quench, douse, fight and nourish your body. That should be the norm for true anti-aging from within," Dr. Rashmi notes, adding that exercising and eating right make all the difference.

The future is here

Stem cell therapy: Stem cells serve as a "cell backup system" for living organisms, replacing damaged or old cells and thus increasing their restorative potential. Stem cell therapy is the use of stem cells to repair or replace damaged tissues in the body. For example, they can be injected into joints to treat arthritis or into muscles to repair damaged muscle fibres.

Gene Therapy: It is widely used to treat diseases caused by bad genes. It is a treatment or prevention method that involves altering a person's genes. It may entail replacing a faulty gene with a healthy one or editing genes to change their functions. Treatments for inherited blindness and blood disorders are two examples.

Telomere Extension Therapy: Telomeres, which are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, are involved in the ageing process. Some therapies aim to lengthen telomeres in order to slow down the ageing process.

Reverse aging

The potential benefits of stem cells as an anti-aging therapy include cell rejuvenation, improved organ function, and a lower risk of age-related diseases. Other benefits:

A sense of vitality and renewal

Increased capacity for physical activity

Increased libido

Pain relief, increased strength, balance, and overall mobility

Immunity boost

Overall improvement in quality of life

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