PH status in stem cell-based therapy elevatedBy Charles E. Buban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Within the confines of the 170-square-meter facility located on the 6th floor of the Makati Medical Center lies one of the country’s most sterile environment. And there’s a reason it should be.
“Before we could even convince our patients about the value and effectiveness of stem-cell-based therapy, we need to assure them that their cells will be processed by one of the most experienced staff and advanced facilities in the region,” says Dr. Eric Flores, head of MMC Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory.
The MMC Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory offers ultra-clean room facility (class 100) that can handle cell-based products and culture facility as well as sophisticated procedure to isolate stem cell (magnetic-activated cell sorting).
“Our laboratory is unmatched in terms of providing the best cellular product or quality,” Flores says, adding that the laboratory also performs meticulous quality control and documentation as well as follows established system to monitor the patient’s progress.
He admits that while stem cells were first proposed for scientific use in 1908 (by Russian scientist Alexander Maximov at the congress of hematologic society in Berlin), it wasn’t until the past decade that their astounding potential to change medicine’s entire approach to fighting disease really took hold.
“Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can renew themselves and differentiate into a diverse range of specialized cell types. This means they can generate specialized cells, such as muscle cells and heart cells. So if stem cells in a lab can be coaxed into producing different specialized cells, they can provide a virtually unlimited source of cells to repair or replace damaged or diseased cells and tissues,” explains Dr. Francis Chung, scientific officer of the Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory’s Stem Cell Lab.
Their possible uses include creating fully functional heart tissue ready for grafting on to a damaged heart; stimulating stem cells in the brain to reduce the effects of stroke; and “curing” diabetes with pancreatic stem cells that produce insulin.
Because of these promises for curing major deadly diseases, MMC, in line with its 2015 mission, inaugurated the Cellular Therapeutics Lab late last year to give hope to those with cancer, diabetes Type 1, neurologic diseases and joints disorders.
The facility is designed and built to ensure that it is free from biological and nonliving contaminants, which is crucial considering that most of the laboratory’s patients suffer from a weakened immune system.
3 notches better
“We put premium importance in the quality and sterility of the product. In comparison with other laboratories, the lab is at least three notches better in providing a sterile environment,” Chung assures.
For example, the Biosafety Level 5 instituted at the laboratory is at least one or two notches higher than what is recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, as part of the routine procedure, the facility is continuously monitored for its sterility by a third party.
Chung adds that in cases wherein the stem cells will be sourced out from a donor, the MMC Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory has the capability to identify a possible crossmatch—using 10-point DNA matching—for the recipient.
“We assure our patients that we have the technology to push this cellular transplantation process that will significantly minimize complications,” Chung says.
According to Flores, the laboratory has affiliated with the International Society for Cellular Therapy, a nonprofit organization composed of leading cell therapy experts from 40 countries. Based in Washington DC, the ISCT actively provides scientific, educational and technical support for laboratories engaged in cellular therapy all over the world.
He says these assurances are important considering that stem cell based treatment has been documented in a number of instances to help those suffering from previously considered incurable diseases. In fact, he adds that based on several reports, stem cell based treatment has demonstrated its potential in boosting the immune system, controlling the growth of the cancer, or even eradicating the tumor in the cancer patients.
“Quality of life has also been positively influenced considering that unwanted side effects from conventional treatment (such as chemotherapy) has been reported to have lessened,” Flores adds.
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