Healthcare specialists say while embryonic stem cell research is grabbing the headlines, a less controversial type of stem cell treatment is producing amazing results.
Adult stem cell treatment uses donated umbilical cord blood, or tissues donated after a miscarriage, instead of embryonic tissues.
The treatment is expensive, is not covered by insurance and oftentimes is not available in the United States, but doctors and health care specialists say the results are undeniable.
That's what makes it so exciting, just to see people have dramatic improvements in a relatively short period of time, said healthcare administrator Terry White, president of medical travel group BridgeHealth International.
White said he has seen the proof firsthand. BridgeHealth International connects patients interested in medical tourism with overseas doctors who can perform a given procedure.
One of their patients was Jennifer Blankenship, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis almost 30 years ago. BridgeHealth found a doctor in Costa Rica who injected adult stem cells into her spine.
Those stem cells get around those nerves and start to rebuild the coating around those nerves, said White.
Blankenship had been unable to speak for two years and was partially paralyzed before the injection. Within seconds after the injection, everything changed.
It was immediate, said Blankenship. After the first IV, I could speak; after the second injection in my spine, I could move.
For the first time in two years, Blankenship could lift her arms above her head, wiggle her fingers and toes and talk.
'This is a miracle.' Truly, that was the first sentence I said, and 'I want lunch,' Blankenship laughed.
White said a procedure like Blankenships can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $60,000, but the results are well worth it.
When you get someone who's had a stroke and they can't speak and they suddenly can speak again, that's a significant quality of life improvement, White said.
Blankenship, who was a world traveler and adventure-seeker before her disease put her in a wheelchair, said she hopes further stem cell treatments will help her walk one day.
I'd like to get my pilot's license and go scuba diving and hang gliding, Blankenship said.
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