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From cancer cure to cosmetic surgery: The wonders of stem cell therapy |


From cancer cure to cosmetic surgery: The wonders of stem cell therapy

Serena Ordoveza - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It is a treatment used to remedy a host of diseases, from Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis to Type 1 Diabetes. It has aided doctors in successful plastic and reconstructive surgery. And it is available right here in the country.

“This is the future of Medicine,” declares neurosurgeon Eric Flores, who heads Makati Medical Center’s Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory. “It’s time to enter the molecular age.”

Fitted with world-class equipment from Germany, Japan, and the US, the Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory offers a wide range of services that boast the remarkable efficacy of stem cells.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the potential to develop into different cell types in the body. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell, or develop into another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a red blood cell or a brain cell. In some organs, stem cells serve as an internal repair system, dividing to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues.

What is stem cell therapy?

Stem cell therapy is the process of extracting stem cells from the patient, called autologous stem cells (or cells sourced from your own body), then purifying the cells before they are reintroduced into the patient either through the vein or injected under the skin. The treatment uses cells from one of three common sources: the blood, bone marrow, or fat.

To ensure minimal to no complications, Flores recommends the use of autologous stem cells over those harvested from another source, like from another person or from sheep.

Stem cells are used to repopulate the blood and bone marrow with normal blood elements after ablative chemotherapy in the treatment of such conditions as leukemia, multiple myeloma Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Stem Cell Rescue can also make Type 1 Diabetes a thing of the past: after ablative chemotherapy to the abnormal cellular immune system, stem cells produce a normal immune system, thereby allowing normal cells in the pancreas to grow.  

Flores adds that specific cancers can be addressed and prevented from recurring through Dendritic Cell Immunization. In this approach, doctors identify tumor antigens to prime dendritic cells, which originate from the stem cells in the bone marrow. The cells are cultured with the known tumor antigen present in the cancer cells of the patient. This “teaches” the dendritic cells to identify the enemy cancer cells and help in tumor eradication.

Biosafety Level 5 facility

Separation of the cellular products is carried out within the Lab’s Biosafety level 5 facility through automated magnetic-based cell separation. The technology is approved by the US-FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) in clinical trials to perform cell purification without compromising cell physiology. Thus, the laboratory boasts cell purity (at least 90-95 percent) and cell viability of the product.

“Biosafety level 5 is at least one notch higher than what is recommended by the US-FDA,” says Flores. “As part of the routine procedure, the facility is continuously monitored for its sterility. Most cancer patients have weakened immune systems; hence, we put premium importance in the quality/sterility of the product.”

The laboratory is managed by experienced scientists with extensive training, and is affiliated with the International Society for Cellular Therapy (ISCT). ISCT is a non-profit organization composed of leading cell therapy experts from 40 countries. Based in Washington DC, it actively provides scientific, educational, and technical support for laboratories engaged in cellular therapy across the continents.

Fat and stem cells

Plastic and reconstructive surgery with stem cell are handled by Dr. Manuel Fernandez Jr., head of Makati Medical Center’s Aesthetic Center. For 10 years now, Fernandez has improved looks using two seemingly unlikely yet effective tools: fat and stem cells.

Fernandez reportedly introduced liposuction in the Philippines back in the ‘80s, once he learned it from doctors who invented the procedure in Paris. “Fat is very useful,” he says. “For years, we’d just throw away liposuctioned fat.” Liposuctioned fat from a patient’s abdomen, hips, or thighs can be used to enhance a face-lift, to restore the breast contour of patients who’ve undergone lumpectomy, or augment the breasts.

Performed correctly, fat transplant leaves no scars, promises immediate results, and decreases downtime as well as side-effects, Fernandez points out. “As to how long a fat transplant can hold up before you make an appointment for a touch-up, consider having stem cells added into the fat. By literally augmenting the quality of the fat, ‘stem-cell-enhanced fat’ ensures that you’ll be enjoying the effects of your procedure for quite some time,” he says.

“Among my patients, the longest follow-up is five years,” continues Fernandez. “I have pictures of patients who I’ve added more volume to the face and the volume has stayed.”


For all its great strides in Medicine, stem cell therapy is not without its controversies. The use of embryonic stem cells, which can develop into any tissue in the body and are harvested from aborted fetuses and embryos produced via in-vitro fertilization, is controversial.

The government has not considered stem cell therapy a public health issue so far, and it also plans to come up with therapy guidelines in the country.

Makati Medical Center maintains that the stem cells used in its treatment are either sourced from the patient himself (autologous), or in the case of children, sourced from the children’s parents or siblings, Flores stresses.

Controversies aside, many will agree this revolutionary field of Medicine is nothing short of a miracle, says Flores. Children have been known to awaken from a coma after stem cell treatment, walk a year later, and attend school in three to four years. Back pain and degenerative joint conditions have reportedly been eased significantly by stem cell therapy, as have various heart conditions.

“Particularly in stem cell rescue, the success rate is very high,” claims Flores. “And children’s response to treatment is fantastic.”

(For more information on the Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory and the Aesthetic Center, please call Makati Medical Center at tel. no. 8888-999, e-mail or visit

(For best results, consult your doctor.)

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