Chasing the miracle cure
Jim Bradley understands the season-on-the-brink desperation that, according to Fox Sports, sent Peyton Manning and his ailing neck to Europe this summer, seeking the experimental promise of stem cells. For the past two decades as the Steelers orthopedist, Bradley has listened to injured athletes beg him to be creative in getting them back onto the field. “In the last year, I’ve seen half a dozen guys go to South Korea, Japan, Germany, even Russia for stem cell procedures,” says Bradley, a past president of the NFL Physician’s Society. “And there’s going to be plenty more.”
The 57-year-old doctor should know. In January 2009, after Hines Ward left the AFC championship game with a torn MCL, Bradley administered a form of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a strange and novel procedure at the time. Placing a sample of Ward’s blood in a centrifuge, Bradley isolated the plasma and platelets, which contain natural repair engines, then reinjected the serum into the receiver’s injured knee. Ward returned to the field two weeks later for Super Bowl XLIII, a remarkable recovery he and Bradley credit to the procedure. Had the Steeler opted for rest and physical therapy instead, the two say Ward likely would have watched the big game from the sideline.
At the time, Bradley was hailed as a genius; weekend warriors everywhere started asking for the “Hines Ward treatment.” But compared with the latest stem cell technologies, PRP looks about as revolutionary as leeches. Instead of relying on the relatively small number of stem cells that swim in blood, cellular scientists elsewhere in the world are extracting millions more out of bone marrow and fat, then engineering them into injury-fighting miracle workers. In Europe, healthy top-level soccer players are already having their stem cells harvested and grown into lines of bone and connective tissue in case of injury. “They’re doing it so they’ll have a ligament line ready if they get a tear during the season,” Bradley says.
Until last year, Christopher Centeno was doing a booming business culturing mesenchymal stem cells at his Broomfield, Colo., clinic. When NFL defensive end Jarvis Green visited the doctor in 2010 after two failed knee surgeries, the player faced the end of an eight-year career with New England. Shortly after receiving his stem cell treatment, Green was back in the NFL. “Before, I couldn’t walk up the stairs,” he told The Mag. “Three weeks later, I went to an NFL training camp and didn’t miss a day.”
Green’s recovery gave him one more season, with Houston, before he retired. But he had one of the last seats on Centeno’s cultured stem cell miracle train. In August 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration filled a federal injunction to prevent Centeno from culturing stem cells. The FDA claims he was “adulterating” blood in a way that turned it into an unapproved new drug. Centeno, who still provides same-day stem cell procedures, has spent $500,000 fighting the agency’s controversial opinion and even more money moving his culturing operation to a new clinic offshore in the Cayman Islands. “The FDA has pushed this therapy out of the U.S.,” he says.
- Bone Repair Through Stem Cells (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- Stem Cell Treatment for Degenerating Intervertebral Discs (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- Als Treatment Through Stem Cells (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- Stroke Recovery Improved Through Stem Cells (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- Gastrointestinal motility disorders addressed with Stem Cells (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)
- Epidermal Growth Factor Increaeses Stem Cell Regeneration After Radiation (repairstemcell.wordpress.com)