In 1969 man walked on the moon and American society was convinced that any goal could be accomplished with the right attitude and resources. Since that hope, many modern technologies and medical breakthroughs have been created to make the lives of Americans better, but there was still a lack of real medical breakthroughs to help those suffering from chronic and fatal conditions like Spina Bifida. Now researchers believe stem cells are the path to curing this notorious disease which used to kill 90% of its patients.
The condition affects close to 2,000 infants in the U.S. every year, but treatment hasn’t evolved much since the condition was named. “A child that was born with spina bifida in the 1940s and 1950s likely would not have received intervention right away,” says Dr. Lisa Pruitt, associate professor at Middle Tennessee State University and medical historian. “What doctors tended to do was wait and see if the child survived a few years [with an open lesion]; if they survived, they’d do surgery to close the defect. That was the standard of care.”
Thanks to new therapies including stem cell therapies, researchers have greatly prolonged the life and condition of living of patients diagnosed with the disorder. The new therapies help with symptoms associated with the disorder like renal failure and most importantly hydrocephaly which can cause brain abnormalities and seizures. Most spina bifida patients now make it into adulthood and can lead relatively normal lives according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC.)
Other research teams across the country are counting on stem cells to cure fatal diseases and reduce chronic conditions that plague millions of Americans. Retired surgeon Kenneth Pettine of Colorado has used his post-retirement years to research mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their impact on chronic musculoskeletal and orthopedic disorders like degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and more. Pettine’s FDA-approved clinical trials show MSCS as a safe, effective, and non-invasive treatment that could be the future of how these conditions are treated.
A few decades ago a diagnosis of spina bifida, degenerative disc disease, and other chronic conditions meant a lifetime of agony or death. Thanks to stem cells and the teams researching them like Pettine these chronic or fatal conditions could soon be an issue of the past.