Human beings will do virtually anything in their pursuit of being healthy and prolonging life. Whether taking supplements or trying the latest cutting-edge technology, a longer life is something that most people would pay any price for, especially if it improves their quality of life, too.
Forever Labs is a startup that cryopreserves fat cells from liposuction which, they claim, could potentially prolong human life by many years. Until now those cells were taken from bone marrow, but a new initiative allows plastic surgeons to preserve fat cells removed during liposuction procedures for patients who want to participate, and at a much lower price.
Stem cells replenish and support blood, bone and other vital tissues and body systems. According to some research studies, the decline in the number of stem cells in the body is what leads to a decline in health and stem cells can now be used to prolong life via a process called cryopreserving. According to Forever Labs, there are numerous amazing benefits to this process.
Forever Labs are hoping to cash in on this cutting-edge technology by using young stem cells to prolong life but also to fight disease. According to their research, their procedures could help to fight dozens of age-related diseases including heart disease, MS, kidney failure, Parkinson’, and Alzheimer’s. But the list goes on and on and shows much promise for the future of human wellness.
As Forever Labs co-founder and CEO, Mark Katakowski explained to Business Insider: “If you’re going to throw them in the garbage, you might as well bank them.” And while that could be considered a slightly awkward conversation to have with one’s plastic surgeon, it could end up prolonging life and lead to a healthier existence. But the procedure only works under careful lab conditions and is a fairly complicated one at that.
After fat cells are taken through liposuction, they are sent to the nearest Forever Labs facility. Once they arrive there, they are then extracted and frozen, all the while being maintained under careful conditions. “This is like a back-up,” Katakowski said, noting that in the future more advanced science will allow these cells to be used as and when they get sick or suffer from a specific disease.
When it comes to preserving and prolonging life, or even the claim of it, things don’t come cheap. Forever Labs charge $2,500 for freezing cells from bone marrow and then a further $250 annually to store it properly at their facilities. However, their new method of extracting cells from liposuction is less than half that price, coming in at just $1,500. This makes such a procedure a viable option for the average person.
While stem cells are unique in that they can develop into many different types of cells over time, they can also be used to make up muscle tissue which forms the neurons in the human brain. The hope is that in the future, complex and dangerous organ transplants will become a thing of the past as cells would be used instead to regenerate damaged organs. Research in mice has shown promise for such a proposal, and it could well be transferable to humans.
For the time being, stem cells are almost exclusively used when it comes to humans for one procedure and one procedure only – namely for bone marrow transplants. These are usually given to people suffering leukemia who undergo such transplants in tandem with chemotherapy. This is to replace the healthy stem cells that the chemo has destroyed.
While the only use of stem cells which is approved is for bone marrow transplants, researchers have been looking for years into how similar treatments could be used to treat a range of other conditions. Scientists are interested in the connection between failing cells, such as those in type 1 diabetes, as well as things like heart disease. Clinical trials to date have only included a small number of test subjects, while more research is carried out on mice and other animals.
Due to hope for the future regarding stem cell technology, some people have banked their cells with Forever Labs in advance of such breakthroughs. Ronna Parsa, an orthopedic surgeon from Los Angeles, is one such example. She also has a contract with the company for bone marrow cell draws as she sees great potential in the procedure.
As Parsa explained to Business Insider, “After doing the research I can just see the vast potential for these types of therapies in the future,” she said. “By freezing my 32-year-old stem cells, hopefully when I’m 50 or 60 or 70 I can use those.” But other people are also hedging their bets when it comes to stem cell replacement for the future.
Allison Mayle, a cancer researcher over at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York also spoke to reporters about her hopes for possible treatments in the future. Speaking about the potential benefits, Mayle said, “Would this be something that’s going to happen in our lifetime? It’s hard to tell,” adding, “There certainly are things that could work in the next five to ten years, but they also might not.”
For the time being, banking stem cells is a trend which is growing and gaining momentum. At least according to a recent report, global stem cell banking is a growing market and one that is set to expand from its current level of $6.3 billion a year to almost $10 billion annually by 2023. And it’s people who work in hi-tech who are among those most interested in the procedure.
Forever Labs aren’t the only company offering stem cell banking. A Houston-based firm, Celltex Therapeutics, is also very much in on the action. Once upon a time, they would inject their patients with retrieved stem cells and even carried out that procedure on Texas governor Rick Perry. However, due to a lack of federal approval, the company had to stop offering the procedure.
Peace of Mind
For Katakowski, while Forever Labs aren’t offering stem cell therapies at this time, they may be in the future. “In the back of your mind you know you’ve got it,” Katakowski said. “It gives you a little piece of mind. Is it going to be a get-out-of-jail-free card or an ace in my pocket? It might.” And it’s just that ace in the pocket that has so many people interested in such potential for the future.
According to many, stem cell replacement has the potential to treat a wide range of diseases, injuries, and other health issues. There’s also much evidence on their side, especially when it comes to the use of blood stem cells to treat diseases specifically in the blood. Those treatments have been particularly successful in children who were treated in this way for leukemia. But current stem cell applications are often exaggerated by the media.
As things stand right now, very few stem cell treatments have been approved by the FDA as safe and effective. In fact, the list of treatments where stem cell technology is proven is very short. Nevertheless, some bone, skin and corneal injuries can be treated with skin grafts which are backed up by stem cells implanted in the tissue. While these procedures are considered to be safe and effective, many others are not and patients need to beware.
It’s not just that stem cell treatments are widely ineffective, it’s also that they can create serious long- and short-term health problems in their wake. The other issue is that getting such treatment at this stage of the game could make a patient ineligible for future treatments or clinical trials. That’s not to mention huge out-of-pocket expenses including accommodation and other related fees.
On top of that, while in theory, one’s immune system would not attack one’s cells as a result of stem cell treatments, it all depends on the specific process used to extract the right cells. This is called autologous transplants, and it carries significant risks. When cells are removed from the body, there is also always the risk that they could become contaminated with viruses or bacteria as well as other pathogens.
Another troubling issue is that it can be hard for patients to distinguish between bonafide doctors and companies and clinics trying to market so far unproven and unapproved treatments. Such clinics will market their unapproved products to unwitting patients who haven’t even received a referral from a qualified medical professional. This is often done through aggressive marketing, especially on social media.
In conclusion, while stem cell treatment is effective for things like leukemia, it has not been shown to have any benefit at all for other diseases or injuries. Patients interested in such treatments are advised to seek proper medical advice before signing up for any kind of experimental treatments or clinical trials. While many hope that stem cell procedures may be a life-saving thing of the future, the industry has a long way to go before it can prove that.