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COPD (Emphysema)

Stem Cells & COPD (Emphysema)

Can stem cells make life better for COPD (emphysema) sufferers? The scientific and clinic evidence suggest they can. Many private stem cell research and treatment centers across the world have used bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and fat tissue derived stem cells in treating COPD and noted that many of those treated have experienced significant improvement in lung function. Many were able to reduce their reliance on supplemental oxygen or go off it altogether.

Pioneering stem cell medicine expert, Dr. David Steenblock has treated a number of COPD patients with their own stem cell-rich bone marrow in his Mission Viejo (California) clinic since 2005. He has gotten uniformly good results in most cases. However, what sets Dr. Steenblock apart from virtually all others doing any sort of stem cell therapy for chronic ills like COPD is the fact he readies a patient to receive stem cells; that is, he introduces dietary, hormonal, drug and other measures to insure that not only is a patient’s stem cell as vital and robust as possible, but also that their body is primed to encourage stem cells to engraft and go to work at “full speed ahead.”

First Stop on the Road to Wellville: About Emphysema (A quick review)
Emphysema refers to a progressive chronic lung disease in which the lung’s air sacs and the surrounding tissues are destroyed or damaged. The breakdown of these air sac walls eventually destroys enough of the lung’s surface area so as to significantly diminish the normal absorption of oxygen into the blood stream. This leaves the sufferer almost always short of breath due to a lack of oxygen in the blood stream. The #1 cause of this insidious condition is exposure to cigarette smoking, although rare forms of emphysema may occur in non-smokers including one type that is brought about by absence of a particular enzyme called Alpha 1-antitrypsin. It can also occur in conjunction with other lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma, all of which are made worse by cigarette smoking and exposure to polluted air or other sources of noxious airborne particles or gases. Both emphysema and chronic bronchitis belong to a category of pulmonary (lung) conditions known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Stop # Two: Identifying impediments to healing and stem cell activity and dealing with them
In general, Dr. Steenblock’s screening & patient preparation program is build around these core elements:

  • Patients who have not had a physical exam recently are asked to have a comprehensive one carried out by their primary care doctor. A copy of the results is then sent to Dr. Steenblock’s Clinic.
  • Blood tests should be carried out including a CBC (Complete Blood Count) with indices, platelet count, chemistry panel, uric acid, electrolytes, ESR, CRP, ANA, fibrinogen, D-dimer, serum iron/TIBC, and % saturation.
  • A clean catch urinalysis (UA) should be done.
  • Patients need to have a test for toxic heavy metals. Dr. Steenblock recommends either a DMSA challenge test or a DMPS challenge test.
  • Patients are asked to have tests to determine that no pathogenic (disease-causing) yeast, bacteria (e.g., Klebsiella, Pseudomonas species) or parasites are present in the gut. Why? In-a-word, these can irritate the bowel wall and by so doing allow these organisms and/or material from their cell walls to enter the patient’s body. When this happens irritation and inflammation in various tissues can arise which can disrupt the growth of stem cells and even activate an autoimmune reaction or magnify an existing one.


COPD patients who cough up yellow, green or brown phlegm need to be on antibiotics until there is no more colored sputum being coughed up. Those who have discolored sputum have a chronic infection which is basically slowly killing them. These infections tend to attract white blood cells to the lung which then churn out enzymes that digest lung tissue. In addition, this sort of infection tends to undermine the ability of stem cells to heal up and repair the affected tissues.

Patients with a history of nasal symptoms are urged to have a sinus CT scan to rule out chronic sinusitis. Many folks have such infections and are not even aware of it. As a result the bacteria from the infected sinuses will constantly drain into the lung and cause further deterioration of this vital organ. When this occurs long term antibiotics are needed to eradicate both the sinus infection and the one it spawns in the lung. If stem cells are given when the person has such an infection, the germs release a variety of toxic compounds which tend to kill stem cells. As such, it is mandatory that patients be free of infections at the time they receive stem cells.

Patients are asked to have a hormone panel test. The focus here is on those hormones that are helpful for the growth of stem cells such as thyroid. In instances in which one or more of these hormones is significantly below that of healthy young people, supplementation may be ordered. Stem cells thrive when specific hormones circulate at certain levels – common among children and young folks – hence the emphasis on this testing and (where indicated) supplementation.

If a patient is suspected of having elevated levels of certain hydrocarbons and/or pesticides in the blood or fat, tests may be requested to determine whether the levels might adversely impact stem cells. If so, specific measures will be introduced by Dr. Steenblock and his medical team to help bring these down to acceptable levels. In general most folks harbor a certain amount of pesticides, insecticides and other hydrocarbons in their body fat. To counter this Dr Steenblock recommends taking pills made up of the fresh water algae, Chlorella. This algae’s outer wall has a great affinity for these noxious substances and will help remove them from the body. The average dose is 5 tablets three times per day. Dr. Steenblock recommends the use of Sun Chlorella brand.

Patients may be asked to do a nocturnal pulse oximetry test, which is used to determine how low the blood oxygen level falls during sleep at night (This does not apply to those who had one done during the previous 6 months. They need only provide a copy of the results to Dr. Steenblock.) If the drop is too dramatic and/or sustained, Dr. Steenblock may order additional tests and/or prescribe measures to offset or remedy this. Some patients may need to use supplemental oxygen at nighttime for a set period of time.

Unless ruled out or contraindicated, patients typically undergo a “General Detox program” prior to stem cell harvesting and treatment. This includes getting rid of any oral, sinus or other infections, as well as addressing toxic levels of heavy metals and/or hormone deficiencies (All of which is covered above.) Following this they typically are given lifestyle and dietary guidelines by Dr. Steenblock, both of which are informed by not only published scientific and medical studies but also the Doctor’s own insights and wealth of experience (Forty years of being at the forefront of “whole patient” medical testing and care.)

Step #3: Additional measures to help insure that a patient’s stem cells
In addition to what was outlined in the preceding section, Dr. Steenblock administers various natural and FDA approved stem cell activators & mobilizers such as Stemgevity™ and Neupogen® prior to doing a stem cell treatment and in many instances prescribes use of various FDA approved devices that complement this. Among the many high tech things in Dr. Steenblock’s stem cell prepping & activation-mobilization arsenal is:
Intermittent Hypoxia Therapy External Counterpulsation Periodic Acceleration Therapy Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

In addition, Dr. Steenblock has developed an approach to getting older patient’s bodies to replace “sluggish, devitalized” stem cells in their bone marrow with healthier, more vigorous ones. This is discussed in an article titled “Dr. Steenblock Does It Again!” in the November-December issue of his clinic newsletter. This can be readily accessed by clicking this link.

Step #4: Getting Stem Cells
Once a COPD patient has been “primed and prepped”, he or she then has either stem cell rich bone marrow or fat tissue harvested and given back by intravenous drip (IV). The choice of which tissue is used is made by Dr. Steenblock and his medical and scientific team, who base this on what experience, knowledge and informed insight tells them is most likely to confer the greatest clinical benefit.

Here is an example of how Dr. Steenblock uses his skills and resources to deal with a “stem cell treatment dilemma”. In this case, patients who are seriously underweight:
In this situation it is usually impossible to extract enough fat to do a stem cell treatment right away. What Dr. Steenblock then does is determine whether at least a tablespoon of fat can be obtained. If so, he proceeds to harvest this and then turns it over to a certified lab for stem cell isolation and culturing. Once the stem cells have multiplied into the millions – which takes about 3 week’s time – they are sent to a clinic Dr. Steenblock consults for across the border in Mexico. The patient then goes there and receives their stem cells. Following a stem cell treatment, Dr. Steenblock often has patients do a few additional high tech or IV treatments, all of which are geared to maximize their response to their (stem cell) treatment.

How exactly do stem cells from fat tissue or bone marrow bring about improvements in COPD?

- Fat tissue derived stem cells
Fat tissue stem cells produce a variety of proteins called growth factors that has a powerful impact on cell development, growth and proliferation. When scientists took mice with cigarette smoke-induced COPD and injected them with fat tissue derived stem cells from both mice and humans, they found that not only did the cells arrive in the lungs and stick around (up to 21 days in one study) but also reduced lung-damaging inflammation as well as the lung cell die-off and airspace enlargement that characterizes emphysema. In addition, other studies indicate that a particular type of stem cell (that is abundant in fat) known as “mesenchymals” has the ability to suppress many of the immune system players such as macrophages that attack emphysema-ridden lung tissue. Not surprisingly, many people with COPD who have been treated with fat tissue derived stem cells have reported experiencing reductions in shortness-of-breath and reliance on supplemental oxygen.

- Bone marrow stem cells
Bone marrow has been shown to foster lung tissue repair and confer other benefits in various laboratory and animal studies. One way in which this is accomplished lies in the fact that when bone marrow stem cells especially mesenchymals arrive in the lung, some respond by becoming epithelial and epithelial-like cells. These are the cells that line the lung and which suffer great damage in emphysema sufferers. In addition, bone marrow stem cells secrete compounds that promote new blood vessel formation, while mesenchymal stem cells dampen the lung-damaging activity of immune system players such as certain T-cells and macrophages (In most diseases these immune cells help promote repair, but in COPD their activities wind up contributing to its progression.)
Readers interested in a highly technical look at how bone marrow stem cells can affect repair in diseased or injured lungs should click this link.

Is there any evidence stem cell therapy benefits COPD sufferers?
A great many case histories have surfaced across the world concerning sometimes remarkable improvements in emphysema patients treated with bone marrow and fat tissue derived stem cells. While little in the way of credible statistics or “hard evidence” (in the strictly scientific use of the word) exists, patient responses do suggest that adult stem cell use has merit in many instances. And considering the fact that emphysema is progressive by nature, putting off any treatment that might favorably impact this or even effect repair might be imprudent.

The FDA has, in fact, apparently seen enough evidence to warrant their approving at least two (2) clinical studies involving the use of stem cells for emphysema.

How much does Dr. Steenblock’s course of care and the stem cell treatment cost?
In general, most patients spend between $6000.00 and $15,000.00 USD for their stem cell based treatment program at Dr. Steenblock’s Clinic. In general, the quantity of stem cells used goes up with the amount of money invested in the treatment process.

Is any of the testing, preparatory care or the stem cell treatment covered by Medicare or health insurance? Many of the tests outlined in “First Stop” section are done by a patient’s primary care doctor. Some may be reimbursable under Medicare and/or private health insurance plans.

On-the-other-hand, Dr. Steenblock’s use of stem cell activating & mobilizing drugs and technologies is deemed “off label”, as are his fat and bone marrow based stem cell treatments which means they are NOT covered by either Medicare or private health insurance plans. The attendant costs are born by the patient, but are reasonable with payment options such as use of credit cards and payment plans available.

How do I go about learning more or finding out if I am a suitable candidate for Dr. Steenblock’s stem cell based treatment program?

To learn more about Dr. Steenblock and his unique stem cell-focused medical program on-line, click this link. To speak with one of Dr. Steenblock’s friendly, knowledgeable patient care coordinators about arranging a FREE physician evaluation just call 1-949-367-8870 or toll free 1-800-300-1063. If you prefer communicating in writing, you can Fax a letter or memo to 1-949-367-9779 or you can make use of Dr. Steenblock’s on-line contact form by clicking this link.