Back in October, I had the distinct honor of meeting renowned stem cell researcher and orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Philippe Hernigou, Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Henri Mondor Hospital, East University at Paris, France. In the following conversation with several members of the BennuLife staff, Dr. Hernigou took the time to share his insights and vast experience working in the exciting field of stem cell research.
Back in 1985, Dr. Hernigou first became interested in using autologous bone-marrow grafting to treat nonunion fractures. His research led him to conclude it was an effective and safe method for treatment. As promising as those results were, he did not expect interest and academic research in stem cells to explode in the following decades. In the past, only a handful of papers were published each year, but now, they are rapidly appearing every month.
Reflecting upon his 30-year research experience, Dr. Hernigou mentioned that it was important to emphasize to regulatory authorities that his work would have the most direct applications for human patients, even as animal clinical trials are being conducted. Given that it can take between five to ten years for a new idea from the laboratory to become accepted into mainstream culture, it is important for advocates to take a multi-front approach to make their voices heard such as organizing continuing medical education seminars for physicians and encouraging patients to actively inquire about new therapies with their providers. Both hard data from peer-reviewed studies and well-documented patient testimonials are effective for persuading skeptical medical scientists and healthcare providers to consider the potential of adult stem cell therapies.
Often, skeptics have concerns regarding the safety regarding autologous stem cell injections. Having lead a large-scale study evaluating cancer risk in patients (there was none) who received bone marrow cell concentrate for orthopaedic diseases, Dr. Hernigou is fully convinced of the safety of autologous cell-based therapy. This is one of the most exciting modern findings that can pave the way for greater acceptance by medical authorities.
Another promising area of future investigation is the anti-microbial properties of mesenchymal stem cells. As antibiotic resistance continues to grow against a backdrop of lagging drug development, Dr. Hernigou believes mesenchymal cells could possibly be the “wave of the future” in treating some infectious pathologies.
Although hesitant to give any specific predictions, Dr. Hernigou is confident that the field of regenerative medicine will see many new exciting developments that will revolutionize healthcare delivery and greatly expand the quality of human life in the next twenty years.