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The Influence of Various Alternative and Adjunct Therapies on Stem-Cell Expression


Only recently emerging on our healing horizon, experts predict that stem cells will become the body’s therapeutic miracle workers, regenerating tissues and organs damaged by disease, trauma, or aging. Once thought to be relatively rare or present only in unique tissues, these cells have a ubiquitous presence and regenerative role throughout the body, and may represent a common-denominator mechanism by which many therapies mediate their healing effects.

Because pulling together seemingly disparate pieces of the puzzle catalyzes progress, this article discusses the influence of various previously discussed therapies on stem-cell expression. Conceivably, some could augment the effectiveness of the many stem-cell programs emerging throughout the world.


Stem-cell biology is still a complicated, poorly understood area. Briefly, stem cells are precursor or progenitor cells that have the potential to transform into a wide variety of tissue. Although often dichotomously categorized as either embryonic or adult, they actually represent a continuum of cell types that can transform into our end-product tissue.

For example, as our central nervous system (CNS) develops, embryonic stem cells evolve into more specialized adult neural stem cells. In turn, these adult cells can differentiate into neuron- or glial-restricted precursor cells, the former with the potential to transform into neurons and the latter into support cells called oligodendrocytes and astrocytes.

Omnipotent embryonic stem cells have the greatest potential to differentiate into a wide range of cell types, although it has been difficult to steer them in the desired direction. Adult stem cells are found in most tissues, including, for example, CNS, bone marrow, skin, intestine, liver, muscle, hair follicles, and even teeth. Sometimes, they are robustly expressed, such as the bone-marrow’s ongoing production of blood-cell-replenishing stem cells; in other tissue, they are quiescent and need to be coaxed into action.

Although adult stem cells usually differentiate into the specialized cells connected with the originating tissue, when certain cues are provided, they can transform into cells associated with other tissue. For example, under appropriate circumstances, bone-marrow-derived stem cells can differentiate into nerve cells and, indeed, are being used in several SCI-transplantation programs. Furthermore, studies suggest that adult stem cells can reprogram back into a more embryonic state. Finally, although we have emphasized their therapeutic potential, given the wrong cues, stem cells can turn into physiological troublemakers, causing, for example, cancer.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

It is astonishing to see the many function-restoring, stem-cell transplantation programs emerging worldwide, ranging from those with reasonably strong scientific foundations to questionable, profit-motivated endeavors. In spite of poorly understood risks and benefits, the influence of these programs will continue to grow in the SCI global community.

Stem-cell transplantation procedures and results vary substantially between programs.  Cells from numerous sources (e.g., blood, bone marrow, olfactory tissue, fetal tissue, etc) have been transplanted via several routes, including into the spinal cord or fluid, intravenously, or intramuscularly. Donor cells are not selected based on the theoretical best source or regenerative potential but their isolation ease, such as concentrating blood stem cells. Likewise, it’s a lot easier and safer but perhaps not as effective to inject cells into a muscle, blood, or spinal fluid than surgically accessing the spinal cord.

In addition, endogenous stem cells may play a healing role in acute injury. For example, Drs. Charles Tator and A.J. Mothe (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) have carried out studies in rats suggesting that that injury itself mobilizes dormant spinal-cord stem-cells into action. Perhaps, some of the therapies discussed below could amplify this healing response.


Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that a life-force energy qi permeates all living things through meridian channels punctuated by acupuncture points. Stimulating these points promotes health- and regeneration-enhancing qi flow.

Scientists have shown that acupuncture influences neuronal stem-cell expression in several animal models of neurological disorders. Because of such suggestive studies, as well as others indicating that acupuncture can restore some function in both acute and chronic human SCI, acupuncture has been incorporated into a number of SCI stem-cell programs.

According to Harvard University’s Dr. Charles Shang, the acupuncture system and stem cells are closely linked through an “organizing center network” composed of under-differentiated, electromagnetically sensitive cells. Confirmed by published studies, this network is created early in embryogenesis before the formation of other body systems (e.g., spinal cord) and has the potential to influence these later-formed systems throughout life. Under this model, acupuncture has extensive growth-control effects and can trigger network stem cells into action. 

As a crude analogy, view the acupuncture-sensitive “organizing center network” as a behind-the-lines’ general ready to send in “green” reserve troops (i.e., stem cells) who will evolve into the front-line combatants replacing those who have fallen from the attacks of disease, trauma, and aging. In the case of transplanted stem cells, Shang speculates that they can be recruited into a new network for repair and regeneration.


Evidence indicates that laser therapy promotes functional recovery after SCI. For example, Dr. Kimberly Byrnes et al (Washington, DC) demonstrated that laser energy alters gene expression in rats with SCI and in cells being transplanted into the injured cord (insert link). Dr. Semion Rochkind (Israel) also has shown that functional recovery in rats with SCI was maximized when embryonic cell transplantation was followed with laser irradiation.

This research is particularly relevant because individuals with SCI have attempted to maximize restored function after stem-cell transplantation using laser-based therapy, especially with the Laserpuncture program developed by France’s Albert Bohbot (  Dr. Emilio Jacques (Mexico) has also used laser and acupuncture therapy after transplanting stem cells into the injury site.

Hyperbaric Oxygen

With hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy, patients are put in chambers pressurized at 2-3 atmospheres containing up to 100% oxygen. Studies suggest that HBO is beneficial for treating a variety of neurological disorders in which blood-flow-related oxygenation is compromised, including acute and perhaps chronic SCI. The premise is that HBO will force oxygen into injured oxygen-deprived CNS tissue. Dr. Stephen Thom et al (Philadelphia, PA) has shown that HBO stimulates the bone-marrow production of stem cells. Specifically, stem cells doubled in the circulation of humans after a single two-hour, two-atmosphere HBO session, and after 20 treatments, increased eight-fold.

Herbal Medicine

Studies have shown certain common herbal supplements stimulate stem-cell proliferation. For example, consuming blue-green algae increases the number of stem cells released from the bone marrow into the blood by 25-30% for several hours, and ginseng stimulates proliferation of brain stem cells involved in memory.

Omental Surgery

Dr. Harry Goldsmith (Reno, Nevada) has developed surgical procedures for various CNS disorders that use the omentum, a physiologically dynamic tissue that hangs like an apron over the intestines and lower abdomen area. For SCI, the omentum is surgically tailored to create a pedicle of sufficient length and intact circulation so it can be attached to the cord’s injury site (like cutting a square handkerchief into a long necktie). Dr. Ignacio García-Gómez et al (Madrid, Spain) have shown that human omentum contains stem cells, which synthesize key, blood-flow-enhancing growth factors when transplanted.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMF)

EMF reduces neurological damage after acute SCI. For example, Dr. Wise Young (Piscataway, NJ) reported that the majority of EMF-treated cats with SCI were walking four months after injury compared to none in the control group. Pilot studies (Poland) suggested that EMF greatly improved neurological outcomes in patients with acute SCI. Based on these possibilities, several patients who have had stem-cell-containing tissue implanted into their injured cord followed the procedure with EMF therapy.

Because numerous studies indicate EMF influences stem-cell proliferation, including neuronal stem cells, EMF-associated regenerative effects may be partially mediated through such cells. Some speculate that EMF could be the much-needed physiological steering wheel that directs the difficult-to-control, theoretically powerful embryonic stem cells to the desired terminal destination.


A little-known therapy, inert-gas treatment builds up the electromagnetic energy fields possessed by all living things, thereby enhancing regenerative potential. Because transplantable stem-cells are living and possess energy fields, some suggest that exposing them to inert-gas energy while in culture will beef-up their physiological robustness and viability before transplantation.


Psychoneuroimmunology is a highfalutin scientific term to describe how our emotions, attitudes, and consciousness influence health. Speculatively, one mechanism may involve stem cells. For example, as discussed in The Biology of Belief (2005), membrane biochemist Dr. Bruce Lipton states that our emotions affect the electromagnetic fields we internally generate, which modulates the structure of proteins embedded in our cell membranes. In turn, these modulations affect gene or DNA expression that determines cell role and fate. If external EMF can stimulate neuronal stem-cell expression, theoretically, consciousness-generated fields can do so also.


Many therapeutic modalities in our healing spectrum can synergistically work together to enhance health if we are open-minded enough to consider the possibilities. If, for example, the world’s most ancient healing tradition, acupuncture, can influence the most state-of-the-art therapy (i.e., stem cells), we should pay attention, or the promising therapeutic potential of this emerging technology may be compromised.

Although we only have a tip-of-the-iceberg understanding of them, stem cells will play an ever-growing role in our efforts to restore function after SCI. As our knowledge increases, ideally, we will be able to take advantage of various adjunct therapies to maximize the healing potential of both transplanted stem cells and those endogenously produced from within. From conception until death, they are the cells of renewal and regeneration through which our healing energies are mediated.



1)      Carlos Lima (Portugal), stem-cell-containing olfactory tissue;

2)      Andrey Bryukhovetskiy (Russia), hematopoietic (i.e., blood) stem cells;

3)      Samuil Rabinovich (Russia), fetal olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), nerve, and hematopoietic tissues;

4)      Eva Sykova (Czech Republic) bone-marrow stem cells;

5)      Venceslav Bussarsky, (Bulgaria), bone-marrow stem cells;

6)      Advanced Cell Therapeutics (Switzerland), umbilical stem cells;

7)      Cornelis Kleinbloesem (Netherlands & Turkey), bone-marrow stem cells.


1)      K-S Kang (South Korea), umbilical stem cells;

2)      Yoon Ha (South Korea), bone-marrow stem cells;

3)      Yongfu Zhang (China), bone-marrow stem cells;

4)      Hongyun Huang (China), fetal OECs;

5)      Beike Biotechnology (China), umbilical stem cells;

6)      Tiansheng Sun (China), OECs;

7)      Hui Zhu (China), fetal Schwann cells

8)      Masoumeh Firouzi, Schwann Cells

9)      Geeta Shroff (India), human embryonic stem cells;

10)  Satish Totey (India), bone-marrow stem cells;


1)      Alan MacKay-Sim (Australia), OECs;

South America & Mexico:

1)      Tarcisio Barros (Brazil), hematopoietic stem cells;

2)      Gustavo Moviglia (Argentina), bone-marrow stem cells;

3)      Fernando Ramirez (Mexico), blue-shark, embryonic neuronal cells;

4)      Emilio Jacques (Mexico), umbilical stem cells.

United States & Canada:

1)      Diacrin Corporation (USA), fetal pig cells (defunct);

Adapted from article appearing in October 2006 Paraplegia News (For subscriptions, call 602-224-0500) or go to