How Stem Cell Therapy Is Benefiting Many Cubans

Stem cells, unlike other cell types, are unspecialized cells that can use cell division to renew themselves even after long periods of not being active under certain conditions. Stem-cell therapy is not a new scientific concept, however advances made in this area over the years has ensured that the uses of stem cell research provide a variety of biological treatment methods.

Stem cell therapy is used as an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat various diseases or various degrees of injury. This phenomenon arises from the ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent, new and healthy tissue that can potentially replace diseased and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects.

Research Stem Cell Research In Cuba
Research into stem cell has been on-going for several years now. In fact, for over 30 years, bone-marrow, and more recently, umbilical-cord blood stem cells have been used to treat cancer patients with conditions such as Leukemia and Lymphoma. Since 2005, stem cell transplants are being applied in Cuban hospitals to improve myocardial function and cardiac contractility in patients with heart deficiencies. The new therapies will develop Cuban healthcare services while improving the quality of life of the people.

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Stem Cell Therapy In Cuba
According to Dr. Porfirio Hernandez, stem cell specialist and coordinator of the National Group for Regenerative Medicine in the Ministry of Public Health, stem cell therapy is being administered in several medical specialties in 11 Cuban provinces. This feat is being carried out by the National Health System and is quite a sizeable achievement.

Operating in 11 Cuban provinces, the treatment has reached over 4700 Cubans to date. Treatment has been applied in patients who do not respond to conventional therapeutic schemes. More than 1,470 patients, most of them suffering severe ischemia in the legs and other diseases related to the circulatory and lymphatic systems, have received stem cell treatments in Cuba. While a large proportion of Cubans have benefited from the treatments, the procedure is still in clinical trials with strict selection criteria, according to Hernandez.

In Havana alone, 640 cases have benefited from this advanced procedure, said Hernandez. It has been used also in Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Holguin, Cienfuegos, and Ciego de Avila. Hernandez said the results obtained in the field of Angiology are very favourable and many have avoided likely amputations.

The expert added that the regenerative cell therapy is increasingly used in orthopaedics and traumatology. The method has been successfully used to fix gum bone defects. Further highlighted is the favourable response obtained in patients suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis where the treatment based on stem cell graft avoided the need for a lung transplant. This therapy allows the rapid recovery of patients; it is less invasive and more economical, since it takes less costly methods with positive results, Hernandez pointed out.

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Advances in science and medicine have allowed the kind of spectacular treatment methods as described above. This is especially important for countries in the Caribbean, where invasive medical treatment is excessively expensive or requires going overseas. Many medical researchers believe that stem-cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering.

By Norvan Martin



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