Dr. Robert Lanza Where Are You?

Dr. Lanza is one of the most gifted medical scientists of our times. There is no doubt about it. He will likely win the Nobel Prize. You can read a lot about him in any cursory search of the internet. From Wikipedia we note:

“Lanza was part of the team that cloned the world’s first early stage human embryos, as well as the first to successfully generate stem cells from adults using somatic-cell nuclear transfer (therapeutic cloning). Lanza demonstrated that techniques used in preimplantation genetic diagnosis could be used to generate embryonic stem cells without embryonic destruction. In 2001, he was also the first to clone an endangered species (a Gaur), and in 2003, he cloned an endangered wild ox (a Banteng) from the frozen skin cells of an animal that had died at the San Diego Zoo nearly a quarter-of-a-century earlier. Lanza and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate that nuclear transplantation could be used to reverse the aging process and to generate immune-compatible tissues, including the first organ grown in the laboratory from cloned cells. Lanza showed that it is feasible to generate functional oxygen-carrying red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells under conditions suitable for clinical scale-up. The blood cells could potentially serve as a source of “universal” blood. His team discovered how to generate functional hemangioblasts (a population of “ambulance” cells) from human embryonic stem cells. In animals, these cells quickly repaired vascular damage, cutting the death rate after a heart attack in half and restoring the blood flow to ischemic limbs that might otherwise have required amputation. In 2012 Lanza and a team led by Kwang-Soo Kim at Harvard University reported a method for generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by incubating them with proteins, instead of genetically manipulating the cells to make more of those proteins”. [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lanza]

While he has collected many accolades [https://www.robertlanza.com/], Dr. Lanza has been totally absent from the development of stem cell therapies using adult stem cells. While the rest of the world has been using adult stem cells to cure and control our most serious diseases, in some cases for 20 years when Thailand began treating cardiac patients, Dr. Lanza has apparently remained committed to the embryonic stem cell research. His work with embryonic stem cells as the basis for any kind of therapy seems sometimes to be over stated by others. For example, he published two papers on the treatment of macular degeneration using cells from an embryonic stem cell line:

Paper #1: “Embryonic stem cell trials for macular degeneration: a preliminary report”, published January 23, 2012 in the medical journal, Lancet. These are results taken from the paper:

– “Goldman visual fields done by an experienced certified examiner (from whom the treatment was not masked) showed no diminution of visual field; this could reasonably be interpreted as improved vision…Confounding these apparent functional gains in the study eye, we also detected mild visual function increases in the fellow eye of the patient with age-related macular degeneration during the postoperative period”.  Meaning, that the untreated eye had same improvement!

– “We noted clear functional visual improvement in the study eye of the patient with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy corresponding subjectively to the transplanted region of the posterior pole. At baseline the central vision was hand motions. By week 2, best corrected visual acuity was improved to counting fingers (one ETDRS letter). We recorded continued improvement during the study period ( fivve ETDRS letters [best corrected visual acuity 20/800] at 1, 2, and 3 months; The patient is very reliable and worked for years as a graphic artist. She reports subjectively improved colour vision and improved contrast and dark adaptation from the operated eye”. Meaning, even though these are subjective results reported by the patient (no doubt also under pressure to show something) and not any objective medically demonstrated changes, we should believe these subjective results because the patient is reliable.

Even Dr. Lanza himself concluded “Similarly, we are uncertain at this point whether any of the visual gains we have recorded were due to the transplanted cells, the use of immunosuppressive drugs, or a placebo effect.”

And let’s not forget the two main defects of using embryonic stem cells in therapy…they are always rejected as foreign cells, or otherwise cause tumors. So in this study, suppression and elimination of immune function was required in these patients! Lanza Paper #1

Paper #2: “Human embryonic stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium in patients with age-related macular degeneration and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy: follow-up of two open-label phase 1/2 studies”, published October 15, 2014 also in Lancet.

– The stated purpose of the study was to examine “the safety and tolerability of hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelium in patients with atrophic age-related macular degeneration or Stargardt’s macular dystrophy”.

– The paper records a laundry list adverse reactions observed with the 18 immunosuppressed patients being treated with embryonic stem cells. For example:

“Surgical complications of vitreoretinal surgery are well characterised. The complications reported here are consistent with the risks that are associated with pars plana vitrectomy surgery for macular disorders,25 and thus in the patient groups we studied there seem to be no complications associated specifically with hESC-derived retinal pigment epithelium. Three eyes developed visually insignificant, preretinal patches of non-contractile, transplanted retinal pigment epithelium presumably refluxed from the subretinal space or injected into the preretinal space. One patient developed endophthalmitis, which is known to occur after vitrectomy.26 Staphylococcus epidermidis was detected in the vitreous cultures from this patient but not in Gram-stained or cultured donor cells. Infection was not detected in the subretinal space. Recovery to baseline visual acuity occurred by 3 months after surgery and there were no apparent long-term sequelae of the infection. Complications were associated with systemic immunosuppression in some of the older patients with age-related macular degeneration (appendix), suggesting that future trials might include a modified immunosuppression regimen for older patients.” Lanza Paper #2

So, in summary, the second paper presented nothing new, and actually was more of a write up of adverse post-surgical reactions. The principle “evidence” was two fold: (1) imaging in the eyes post surgery demonstrating changes in morphology but not demonstrating any changes in vision; (2) improvement in “letter scores” on subjective eye test, meaning what the patient told them.

And for some reason, apparently aware of possibly better results being reported using adult stem cells, the authors had to take a dig at adult stem cell therapy with this comment:

“Unlike adult and fetal tissue, a central feature of hESC is that they have the capacity to proliferate indefinitely without undergoing senescence, providing an unlimited source of cells as starting material for directed differentiation. Cell lines can be tested to ensure that disease-associated genetic abnormalities are absent. Another crucial advantage of using cells derived from hESC is that the stage of in-vitro differentiation can be controlled to maximize survival and functionality during and after transplantation.”

Apparently still proposing that “ESC’s are better”, here is the same paragraph with the crucial term that was left out:

“Unlike adult and fetal tissue, a central feature of hESC is that they have the capacity to proliferate indefinitely [in vitro] without undergoing senescence, providing an unlimited source of cells as starting material for directed differentiation. Cell lines can be tested to ensure that disease-associated genetic abnormalities are absent. Another crucial advantage of using cells derived from hESC is that the stage of in-vitro differentiation can be controlled to maximize survival and functionality during and after transplantation.” When we use a patients own stem cells, we never have to worry that the cells we are using may be contaminated with “disease-associated genetic abnormalities”. Autologous stem cells derived from the specific patient do not require immune-suppression, do not require in vitro culture as they can be used directly, do not need to “proliferate indefinitely” in vitro since they are used fresh within 2 hours of collection, and differentiation need not be controlled because as soon as the autologous cells are transplanted, they automatically differentiate into the appropriate cells based on cellular environment.

These two papers seem to be a far cry from Fortune magazine describing Dr. Lanza as possibly being “remembered one day as the man who saved millions from blindness”. In fact, after these two papers, Dr. Lanza appears to have abandoned further work with embryonic stem cells and macular degeneration.

Many learned scientists and physicians believe that embryonic stem cells will never lead to any cure whatsoever. And there has not been one in the last 20 years, even though adult stem cell therapy (therapy with ASC’s) has proven effective overseas for many diseases. Look for example at the list of conditions treated at the world famous and highly respected Panama Stem Cell Institute https://www.cellmedicine.com/.

Or even look at a US website and the many diseases being treated with adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood and tissue:

Which leads us back to our question: Dr. Lanza, where are you? Why have you not undertaken any studies using adult stem cells in therapies wherein no immunosuppression is needed? Why have you allowed your voice to be silent as the FDA gutted the 21st Century Cures Act, by outlawing physician based treatments with adult stem cells and requiring instead the use only of banked stem cells in therapy. The Act required the FDA to consider overseas successful adult stem cell therapies for use in the USA. https://panamacollegeofcellscience.org/2019/03/27/mixed-cell-regenerative-medicine-and-the-21st-century-cures-act-the-law-authorizing-adult-stem-cell-therapy-in-the-united-states/

And this review is informative : The Subversion of Stem Cell Therapy in the United States

So, the US is going nowhere. We have piles and piles of research papers in medical journals…but no cures!

We need you. Is it so bad to research both embryonic stem cells as well as adult stem cells for therapy? Your one so respected voice and skilled medical acumen could put the US in the #1 position for stem cell treatments in the world…rather than where we are now…in last position!

You are the very best we have.. We need you.


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