For centuries, drugstore farmers have selectively bred animals and plants in order to produce hybrids without understanding the mechanism of inheritance.
Then, there in the 1800s, drugstore Gregor Mendel, a European monk and a plant breeder, concluded that certain plant characteristics were dominant in inheritance while others were recessive, in the process confirming the presence of an inheritance factor.
In the 1950s, the inheritance factor emerged once again, this time in a new range of inflammatory diseases with shared pathology of deficient collagen in the connective tissue.
These diseases were rheumatoid arthritis, disseminated lupus erythematosis, polyarteritis nodosa and Ankylosing Spondylitis, some of which responded to the newly-discovered anti inflammatory drug Cortisone.
In the 1960s, excessive antibodies (known as cytokines - mainly tumour necrosis factor [TNF]), were noted in the blood stream of these patients, causing the collagen deficiency.
These cytokines were also found in joint cartilage (causing rheumatoid arthritis), nerve lining (causing Multiple Sclerosis) and in white blood cells (causing Leukaemia).
This excessive inflammatory reaction, causing tissue destruction, amounted to a misdirected immune response in which the body attacked itself, which is termed autoimmunity. Many other tissues of the body can be similarly affected.
Was autoimmunity the ultimate cause of all these diseases or was there a preceding factor?
In the 1950s, Crick and Watson spectacularly demonstrated that Mendel’s inheritance factor was a microscopic structure in the nucleus of the cell known as a chromosome.
Stem cell therapy would result in a dramatic improvement in the health of the nation
It looked like a spiral staircase, the sides of which contained countless deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA] and phosphate/sugar combinations arranged in multiple bands known as genes.
The ‘steps’ of the staircase consisted of just four protein chemicals, namely adenosine, thymine, cytamine and guanine, arranged in various combinations.
Every cell contained a pair of identical chromosomes, known as ‘the double helix’, which was replicated by a ‘photocopying’ process, meiosis, to produce a new cell.
Sometimes the chromosomes showed faults such as splitting or fusion or frayed ends. The ‘photocopier’ faithfully copied these faults, producing multiple damaged chromosomes. This frequently caused disease.
Subsequent chromosomal analysis revealed that many diseases, such as the inflammatory diseases which are mentioned above and many cancers, had faulty chromosomes which often produced autoimmunity.
So, at last, we understood that the ultimate cause of many diseases, including autoimmunity, resulted from a faulty chromosome. Further, we understood that the body’s immune system did not recognise the faulty chromosome as normal tissue because its chemistry was now abnormal.
Hence, excessive cytokines were produced to destroy the abnormal chromosomal chemistry, mimicking the way that a virus - such as the flu - was exterminated.
The presence of so much cytokine also caused articular cartilage, or nerve lining damage, as described above.
Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis have found that a certain ‘trigger’ food causes a flare up of symptoms.
This is because the abnormal chemistry of the chromosome is coincidentally similar to that of the trigger food.
Faulty chromosomes are usually acquired during life from radiation (ionizing and electromagnetic), chemicals (including non-bio-identical hormones), pollution, smoking and infection (epigenetic factors) but, occasionally, the fault can also be inherited (genetic).
All the cells of the body are derived from primitive foetal cells developing into stem cells, which form blood, cartilage, nerves, etc. Consequently, the concept of faulty chromosome treatment becomes clearer.
The patient’s own stem cells (which are normally not affected by disease or autoimmunity) are isolated for use from the fat of the buttocks or from bone marrow and, subsequently, these stem cells are injected back into the patient’s bloodstream.
Miraculously, all the faulty chromosomes are repaired and the disease is arrested or disappears entirely.
So far, only Leukaemia and Lymphoma have been treated widely with this technique but now other diseases, such as certain arthritic, cardiac, neurological and malignant conditions, await further scientific suitability for similar stem cell therapy.
In the face of increasingly more treatable diseases that would benefit from stem cell therapy, it is heartening to know that stem cell research is being conducted at this present time in Malta.
Should stem cell therapy appear in this country at some future date, the effect would be a dramatic improvement in the health of the nation?