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Cellular Therapy

Picture of syringe and vialWhat is Cellular Therapy?

In conventional medicine, organs or cells are sometimes transplanted from one person to another, e.g. bonemarrow transplantations or blood tranfusions. This is entirely different from cellular therapy as used in alternative medicine, sometimes also called ‘live cell therapy’ or ‘cytotherapy’.

In 1931 the Swiss surgeon Paul Niehans had the idea of injecting preparations from animal foetuses into humans for the purpose of rejuvenation. This concept seemed plausible to lay people and many influential individuals who could afford this expensive treatment became Niehan’s patients. When it emerged that Niehan’s Frischzellen Therapie (fresh cell therapy) was dangerous – thirty deaths had been reported by 1955 – his preparations were banned in several countries.

Meanwhile several similar cellular treatments had emerged, particularly on the European continent. Examples include ‘Thymus’ therapy (injection of the extracts from the thymus gland of calves) or ‘Ney Tumoin’ (protein extracts from calves or cows) or ‘Polyerga’ (protein extracted from pig spleen) or ‘Factor AF2’ (extract from spleens and livers of newborn sheep). These preparations are usually injected by doctors (non-doctor therapists are not allowed to give injections in most countries) who claim that they have anti-cancer properties, stimulate the immune system or simply regenerate organs or rejuvenate the body in a general sense.

What is the Evidence?

Thymus therapy has been extensively researched as a cancer treatment. The totality of this evidence does not show the approach to be effective. Other preparations have either generated similarly negative results or have not been submitted to clinical trials. However, it is known that any treatment that introduces foreign proteins directly into the bloodstream can lead to anaphylactic shock, the most serious type of allergic reaction. If this condition is not treated adequately and immediately, it can result in death.

The seemingly plausible principle of cellular therapy continues to appeal to the rich and super-rich. None of the claims of cellular therapy are, however, supported by scientific evidence, so these treatments are both dangerous and a waste of money.

For More Information:

This extract is taken from “Trick or Treatment?” (Transworld), a book that contains a series of 1-page summaries looking at the evidence for and against a range of alternative therapies. The authors of the book are Simon Singh (founder of the Good Thinking Society) and Edzard Ernst (the world’s first professor of complementary medicine