Marlo: Is there hope for stem cells being used to slow or halt progression, or even rehabilitation?
Professor David Baker, Researcher: Yes, is the simple answer. So I think stem cells can do many different things and the different type of stem cells. So one of them is to replace the immune system and I think we’ve seen results this year that show it can be very effective if started very early. Obviously it has its own risks so we have to think out if it’s better than current treatments. But also, we can think about repair and restoration. So we heard quite recently of a chap who had sort of a knife wound to his spine and stem cells were used and helped him start to walk again. So we are moving into that era, but I think we’ve got to be realistic that it is some way off and it will take time before it’s available to everyone. Now, one thing we can think about is transplanting cells as repairing stem cells, or the other approach is to try and get what’s there to repair itself, and there have been a number of studies that are ongoing now that are looking at that. So you use a drug to create the body’s own stem cells to start repair and we’ve started to hear some results already. So it’s looking promising and I think it’ll get better as we go into the future too.
Marlo: And if this is in the future, do you think that people who are right now getting stem cell treatments in various clinics in the world, do you think it’s premature for them to be – and perhaps even unsafe – for them to be doing this?
Professor David Baker: I think you’ve got to ask the question is, are people getting money for the treatments and if they’re being charged, you’ve got to be very open-eyed about what is the result. Because at the moment there is no proof that they’re beneficial and in some cases we’re not really sure that they’re safe. So I think with my hat on, science hat on, I’d say, you know, we should, you should be in a trial where you’re actually looked at properly to show that it does work, because we hear all these claims, but there’s no proof and without proper follow-up we don’t actually know if it’s beneficial. So I think at the moment I would just say, you know, I’m sorry to say, kind of wait till we actually show it works.
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