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StemEnhance: Cure-All or Hoax?
Stem cell research is a topic of fiery debate. The subject sparks questions like, "Is it ethical to clone animals … or even people?" and "Is it a good idea to regenerate human organs for transplants?" Another important moral question: "Is it ethical to harvest stem cells from aborted babies?"
The answer to the first and third questions is a firm NO as far as I'm concerned. But it's possible to obtain stem cells from ethical sources, including adults. Over the past several years I've also heard about supplements and drugs that may help us produce our own stem cells so we don't have to "harvest" them from anyone, baby or adult.
If true, that would be an exciting breakthrough. Keep reading to find out if we're already there, as one company claims. . .
Stem cells are crucial to the development of all organisms. Some types of stem cells prompt the creation of all other cells in the body. Others repair or replace damaged tissue and cells.
It's also suspected that stem cells can help cure several types of diseases, such as birth defects or Alzheimer's or even type-1 diabetes. What a breakthrough it would be if stem cells could enable diabetics to regenerate their pancreas!
Given all these high hopes, it seems like stem cells could also do a lot to heal the havoc wreaked by cancer. So it would make sense to want as many stem cells in your body as possible, right? What could be better than a supplement that works as. . .
Your personal stem cell booster?
That's what a company called StemTech claims for its product. They've created StemEnhance, a dietary supplement made from blue-green algae. They say it increases the number of circulating adult stem cells in the body by 25% (that's a boost of 3-4 million cells).
StemEnhance is an oral supplement that supposedly gets absorbed into the blood stream and then into the bone marrow. From there, it attaches to stem cell receptors by means of one of its key ingredients, L-selectin. Then a molecule called Migratose herds the stem cells out of the bone marrow and into the blood stream.
Once these stem cells reach the blood stream, they search for areas with tissue and cell damage. If they find one, they start to regenerate and heal it.
But that's not all StemEnhance might do. Other ingredients include phenyl ethylamine, which is a mood improver. Then there's phycocyanin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.
The StemEnhance website reports that people have experienced physical improvements after taking the supplement. They list positive benefits for everything from liver and pancreatic function to the cardiovascular, nervous, and hormonal systems.
On top of that, StemEnhance pills are said to increase energy, help eliminate toxins, and improve mental focus.
Too good to be true?
My first reaction to StemEnhance was that it must be too good to be true. I mean really, can they prove all these claims? Especially if you take just two pills a day?
But I think there's potential for stem cell treatment as a whole. After all, optimal health correlates with having a high number of circulating stem cells.
So, I decided to look at the facts … which is when something interesting came up, something I didn't know before.
The primary ingredient for StemEnhance is derived from blue-green algae, also known as AFA (short for Aphanizomenon flos-aquae).
Now, I'm a believer in the health benefits of algae and I take spirulina regularly. But until today I didn't know blue-green algae aren't really algae. Scientifically, these organisms are a type of bacteria. There are many, many different species of blue green algae, and some of them are highly toxic.
That last point I did know, because a few years ago one of the blue-green algae supplements on the market turned out to be deadly. As far as I know, this was an exception. Most blue green algae supplements are made from safe strains of these little creatures.
But you don't want to harvest and eat algae off your own pond because it could easily be poisonous. Supposedly dogs and humans have gotten sick from merely swimming in fresh water contaminated with the wrong species of blue-green algae.
Getting back to the AFA used in Stemenchance, naturally the manufacturer says their type of blue-green algae is safe. I expect they're right, because otherwise we'd be hearing about deaths and illnesses, and you can bet the FDA, Quackwatch and most of the mainstream press would go to town with that.
But just for the record, Wikipedia states that some varieties of AFA do produce endotoxins, which can damage liver and nerve tissues.
Dr. Milena Bruno, a leading authority on the toxicity of blue-green algae, states that the toxic matter within the algae is known as microcystin. This substance is actually a strong initiator of tumors.
So on one hand, StemEnhance claims that the strain of AFA in its product heals tissues and reduces tumors. Yet other strains of AFA actually damage tissues and create tumors.
If StemEnhance is manufactured with some kind of purified extract of AFA rather than the whole organism, then it could be safe beyond any doubt. But from their website it sounds to me like it's made with the whole organism.
I've been amused while researching StemEnhance. Online discussions about the supplement remind me of Jerry Springer. There are so many fervent skeptics and avid supporters of the pill that I can see both sides swinging punches while bouncers pull them apart.
On one side, you've got doubting scientists who question the company's claims. On the other side is a defensive company fighting to save face. Then on the sidelines you've got supporters who make good money by reselling the supplement.
You can also find strong written opinions of those who represent StemEnhance, like inventor and chief researcher Christian Drapeau. Drapeau, of course, defends AFA against the charge that it may cause problems. He says that after 30 years of having blue-green algae in the marketplace, it has never caused any serious, known problems. Hmmm. . .
Overall, it looks like most of the debate around StemEnhance focuses on whether AFA is safe, whether Christian Drapeau is a legitimately credentialed researcher, and whether there's proof that StemEnhance is effective. In my opinion, there's not enough proof.
StemEnhance is a Canadian product that went global. Interestingly, the FDA won't permit the product to be imported into the U.S. Yet you can go online, buy a bottle of pills for $60, and have it shipped anywhere in the U.S.
I like the idea of a supplement that helps generate new stem cells. I have hopes for the theory that a boost in stem cells could be a way to treat cancer and repair tissue. As often happens, we need more research.
It appears there was some research done on the claim that bone marrow stem cell flow increases after taking StemEnhance. However, that boost took place an hour after taking the pill and no further boost was detected. There's also not much research to show whether the increased stem cell flow remains after use of the pill is discontinued.
It's reassuring to hear there are no reported incidents of people being harmed by the product. I sure hope it's nontoxic. Maybe we'll soon find confirmed alternative remedies that boost stem cell levels — along with a better understanding of how stem cells work when it comes to healing cancer.
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