Adult Stem Cell Therapy Blog

Jim Burns- Making a Comeback

Monday, October 02, 2006 - Stem Cell Guru

This newspaper article is about Oregon native Jim Burns, a TheraVitae patient, who was treated in August, 2006. Stem Cell Guy is sorry he can't provide a link, as he doesn't have a spare $10.67 per month on a subscription to the East Oregonian newspaper. However, the ingenious Stem Cell Guy was able to copy the article before they hid it in their archives.

Update: October 5, 2006- Stem Cell Guy broke open his piggy bank and was able to scrape up enough change together for the article. Here is the link.

WESTON - Jim Burns was frustrated.

A heart attack at age 44 left him often fatigued and short of breath. Over the 23 years that followed, doctors performed quadruple bypass surgery, did angioplasty and inserted stents, but his condition gradually worsened.
Burns' options appeared to be dwindling.

"I had probably 50 heart attacks," he said. "Your heart dies a little at a time."

Then, one day, he saw a public television program about something called stem cell therapy. Some English researchers testing the procedure on a group of patients, saw incredible improvement, Burns remembered.

He searched the Internet for more information about the therapy and found a biotechnology company in Thailand that specializes in stem cell therapy for heart patients. The company, TheraVitae, uses VesCell stem cell treatments on patients with coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure. The company's Web site claimed an 80 percent success rate after treating over 130 patients.

In stem cell therapy, doctors take stem cells from the patient's own blood, multiply them in a lab and, later, reinject them into the damaged heart.

The more Burns learned, the more excited he got. Many telephone calls and blood tests later, Burns was winging his way to Thailand with his wife, Melva, with high hopes the procedure would help his weakened heart.

On July 20, doctors withdrew blood from Burns. Five days later, he sat on a steel table in a hospital operating room, watching a monitor as doctors worked.

"It took about 40 minutes," Burns said. "They put 28 million stem cells into me."

The monitor magnified the stem cells, so Burns could see clouds of them, he said.

It didn't take him long to notice a difference, though doctors told him it might be a month or two before his heart started pumping more effectively.

"Heart function has increased 12 percent," Burns said.

An added bonus, he said, was the therapy's effect on his diabetes. His blood sugar stays lower and he cut his insulin use in half.

"My diabetes is better - it's a phenomenal side effect," Burns said.

Burns' medical tourism adventure cost him around $35,000, including airline tickets and hotel. He hopes it will be easier for Americans to have stem cell therapy in-country in the future and that insurance companies will pay for it. He is eager to broadcast the procedure's potential.

"Stem cells have the ability to cure every illness and injury in the world,"
he said. "They are capable of rebuilding every part of your body."

The Weston man said he is on a mission to let people know that embryonic stem cells are not the only game in town. He accused drug companies of quashing interest in this type of stem cell therapy.

"Drug manufacturers don't want you to know," Burns said. "It is the miracle drug that's not for sale - it's your own blood cells, so drug companies can't make money off of them."

Burns may get his wish sooner rather than later if scientists at the Oregon Stem Cell Center have their way. Researchers at the center, part of the Oregon Health & Science University, are studying cell and gene therapy as an alternative to organ transplantation. The center's focus is adult stem cells.

Dr. Richard Maziarz is the director of OHSU's Adult Bone Marrow Transplant Center and is associated with the stem cell center.

Since bone marrow transplants are a form of stem cell therapy, the topic is intensely interesting to him. He foresees a time when adult stem cell therapy is commonplace and routine. In the future, injured emergency room patients may receive injections of stem cells as a matter of course.

Since it takes four or five days to multiply a person's own cells, universal stem cell banks could collect stem cell donations in much the same way blood is collected now.

While scientists know stem cell therapy strengthens tissue, the mechanics of why it works is not crystal clear.

"There's a big debate - this is a new field," Maziarz said.

In heart repair, scientists don't know if the cells actually become cardiac muscle cells or if they simply stimulate injured cells.

Stem cells, scientists suspect, have the ability to travel to where they are needed most.

"You shoot them into the forearm and they migrate to the heart," he said.
"They traffic to the site of the injury."

In the meantime, Burns continues to marvel at the scientific advances that helped him

"I have more energy," he said, smiling. "I feel good."


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