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Skin Disorders and Adult Stem Cells, Scleroderma Treated

Ivanhoe Broadcast News, January 16, 2007

Julian treasures every step he takes, which is in contrast to the many people who dread working out.

"It's just really hard for me to do anything," he says -- hard because Julian suffers from scleroderma. Causing inflammation, pain, and hardened skin, his body is attacking itself throughout the skin and organs. His lungs, kidneys, and other organs could eventually fail due to his condition.

Julian is afflicted with a disease that is rare and affects only 100,000 Americans. It's so excruciating it can disable ... and even kill them.

"A bad day is typically just not being able to get out of bed, [with] no energy," he says.

Hopefully Julian won’t have anymore bad days after an adult stem cell transplant, says Duke University Medical Center Oncologist, Dr. Keith.

"Our goal is to, in fact, reset the immune system back to normal so the autoimmune disease may be stabilized," Dr. Keith tells Ivanhoe.

The basic premise of the treatment is to create a new immune system. They put clean stem cells back into the patient after first extracting them out of the body and eliminating the disease. There is no risk for rejection because the stem cells that are used come from the patient directly. It initially reverses the symptoms of the disease and eventually stops it says Dr. Keith.

"The first thing that many notice is that the intense pain they had in their skin starts abating," he says.

However, there is some risk associated with the procedure. In order to create a new immune system, the diseased one must first be destroyed. This puts the patient at risk for infection during the period where he or she is basically defenseless against such attack.

Dr. Keith says, "When the immune system is reborn in this way, the blood counts go down for a period of several weeks and then they recover."

Affecting more than 20 million Americans, there are 80 other autoimmune diseases including scleroderma. A successful treatment using adult stem cells for scleroderma, could lead to the development of other similar treatments to benefit others afflicted with similar illnesses.


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