STEM CELL THERAPY
Stem cell therapy is the most fascinating revolution in medicine currently underway. Stem cell therapy results from the understanding of complex molecular biology events triggering cellular division and development. With that knowledge, the Los Angeles Neurosurgical Institute scientists have reproduced divisional cell processes of adult human neural stem cells and regulated their differentiation to generate, in vitro, several millions of functional neurons.
We believe that the resulting products can be individualized to the uniqueness of each patient’s disease and immunological profile, avoiding risks of viral transmission and rejection. A pioneer in the field since 1995, Dr. Michel Lévesque and his scientific staff investigate and develop potential new therapies for patients faced with irreversible illnesses.
Below is the story of our pilot study:
I met Dr. Lévesque many years ago when I was referred to him by my medical plan. I knew he was a Parkinson's specialist and I went in for a consultation to see how my disease was progressing. The tests showed the Parkinson's was somewhat advanced. He talked to me about what I could expect from the disease and later suggested I participate in a clinical trial for the stem cell therapy he was developing to treat Parkinson's. He said I matched the study's criteria and thought I would be a good candidate. At the time, I was single-I had lived a lot of my life and was in a different position than others who had greater financial and familial responsibilities and more advanced Parkinson's than mine at that point. I was up for anything that would help me and the fact that the cells were coming from my own body made sense to me. I felt like I really had nothing to lose. So I underwent a procedure to receive a deep brain stimulation device, and when it was implanted, Dr. Lévesque harvested neural stem cells from the substantia nigra part of my brain. The cells were multiplied in a lab for several months and then reimplanted. I felt good after the procedure. I went in every 3 months to get a dopamine PET-scan to measure the effect the cells were having. My tremors significantly decreased and I gained five years of virtually symptom-free life. I think that undergoing an experimental therapy like this is an individual decision, but I'm glad I did it. As it turns out, I was the first patient to receive this therapy and it felt good to be in the public eye. I was hoping it would result in a lot of medical plans allowing the operation so it could be accessible to other people. I was invited to share my experience with the U.S. Senate Committee on Technology and the National Institutes of Health and I continue to have optimism for what's to come with stem cell therapy. But one thing that's always bothered me is how upset people get about it when they hear the term 'stem cells'- I don't think they realize that the cells I received were from my own body. They weren't from embryos and there's a big difference. I would have thought the government would have backed that kind of science, and perhaps they will in the coming years. For other Parkinson's patients interested in meeting with a good specialist, I would tell them that from the first time I met Dr. Lévesque, I thought he was very professional-I looked at all the degrees on his wall and he impressed me. And during my deep brain stimulation procedure, I was awake. In the operating room, you knew who was in charge. I would do it all again and feel like we can't leave any stone unturned when looking for ways to combat Parkinson's and he knows I'm on board to have the therapy again as soon as it's possible to do so. As I said in a recent interview when asked what it was like to be the first guy to receive this treatment, I want to be the next guy too.