High-Potency 'Golden Cells' Offer Hope to Those With Severe Brain Injuries
Entrepreneurs can help develop innovative treatments and bring them to market.
Like all entrepreneurs, I’m always looking for opportunities to bring solutions to market that address needs and grow my business — but I also focus my time on solutions that can transform the quality of people’s lives and alleviate suffering worldwide. Lately, I’m working on helping a group of individuals who certainly need help, which in some ways you could view as meeting an “unmet market need.”
The individuals in question suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Professional athletes, military veterans and first responders are at the highest risk. They're also more likley to suffer from severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), chronic tramautic encephalopathy (CTE) and depression. While TBI can usually be identified based on a specific injury to the head, CTE is a condition caused by ongoing multiple traumas, such as concussions.
These types of brain injuries, which can drastically alter daily living and quality of life, impact 2 million people per year. That’s why I’m calling on fellow entrepreneurs to help develop new technologies and innovative therapies to diagnose and treat these injuries and build companies to bring them to market.
Even with access to advanced medicine based on pioneering research in neuroscience, there’s never going to be an iron-clad guarantee that any treatment will be successful. But you can expect a 100 percent guarantee that you won’t get the benefits of a specific therapy if you don’t get treated at all.
Unfortunately, there’s a possibility that’s actually worse — the wrong treatment. Or more specifically, getting treatment based on a diagnosis that’s either incorrect or doesn’t completely reveal the true nature of an underlying disease or injury.
Recently, researchers have been focusing on the origins of PTSD: Is it strictly psychological, or is it caused by a serious brain injury? As we learn more about these injuries, there’s more evidence than ever before that many patients diagnosed with PTSD based on reported symptoms have actually sustained physical trauma to the brain.
Related: New Study Finds THC May Ease PTSD
Psychological disorders may be caused by physical brain injuries
Widely considered a psychological disorder, PTSD is usually treated with psychotherapy and medication. While PTSD can result from exposure to stress, we’re finding that in more and more patients, physical brain injuries may actually cause symptoms of PTSD.
In her new documentary Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain, Jerri Sher presents the stories of veterans who were told they had PTSD, but found later that their symptoms were actually caused by previously undetected TBI or CTE.
If patients can receive life-improving treatment for physical brain injuries, why aren’t more patients — especially our nation’s veterans — getting screened for them?
One explanation may be that symptoms of PTSD and brain injuries can be very similar. In fact, many patients diagnosed with TBI and CTE report symptoms of PTSD. But while experts acknowledge an association among these disorders, recent research reveals that physical brain injuries can actually cause PTSD. That changes everything.
Another reason that patients don’t get appropriate treatment is that until recently, access to more accurate tests for physical brain injuries hasn’t been available. Thanks to newly advanced technologies, testing can reveal evidence of TBI and CTE with far more accuracy. But if patients aren’t screened, there’s no way to determine the cause of neurological disorders.
The result? No diagnosis, and no treatment. And with no treatment, no healing.
Stem cell therapy for CTE and TBI based on advanced science
Until recently, treating TBI and CTE usually required surgery or medication — sometimes both. But surgery can be risky and complex, and the side effects of medication can be serious.
Today, however, companies like mine offer therapies for brain injuries that pose far less risk than surgery and without the side effects common to many medications. These companies treat patients with stem cell therapy as part of a multi-faceted treatment plan for TBI and CTE that includes advanced testing, hormone replacement therapy and supplements that improve immunity and cognitive function. By boosting immunity and reducing inflammation throughout the body and brain, these treatments amplify the body’s own natural ability to heal itself and regenerate damaged tissue.
But these treatments can’t begin without adequate screening. The stories patients tell in Quiet Explosions clearly show that we must help veterans, NFL players, MMA fighters and others who now struggle in their daily lives. Some give up hope: Veterans commit suicide at a rate 50 percent higher than other groups.
As the evidence grows that PTSD isn’t simply associated with TBI or CTE, but may be caused by these injuries and chronic inflammation in the brain, it’s clear that improved screening and treatment can help avoid many of these tragic deaths.
But for many vets who are told they have PTSD, the implication that they suffer from a mental illness creates a sense of shame, so they don’t speak up. The real shame is that approximately 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with PTSD when they may actually be suffering from TBI or CTE.
More accurate testing: Let’s build on these new technologies
Dr. Daniel Amen’s mission is to make more accurate testing available to more veterans and others with PTSD who may suffer from TBI or CTE. Based on his research, he’s opened a network of clinics nationwide that provide access to a wide range of advanced brain scans, such as those based on SPECT technology.
These scans can help diagnose the physical causes of what was once considered only a mental disorder and can be of great value to anyone who wants to optimize their health. I’ve even had my brain scanned at one of his clinics because I take advantage of advanced health testing whenever I can.
There’s plenty of evidence to support Dr. Amen’s findings. Two Amen Clinics research studies showed that brain SPECT imaging can distinguish PTSD from TBI with a 94 percent accuracy rate — far more accurate than relying on MRI or CT scans, which often show “normal” results in people with PTSD. That’s exciting news, and it was recognized by Discover magazine as one of the top 100 science stories of 2015.
And I admire Dr. Amen for speaking up. In a Washington Post article, he pointed out that “psychiatry is the only specialty that doesn’t actually look at the organ it treats.” He also explained that new imaging technology helps reveal underlying biological issues that cause symptoms of PTSD to help more patients get the best possible treatment.
As I mentioned, stem cell therapy can help many TBI and CTE patients heal from their injuries and improve their overall quality of life. After treatment, patients report better mental function, improved mood and motivation and fewer symptoms. The results may not be immediate, but most patients demonstrate improvement in the first few months and then gradual yet consistent improvement over the next 6 to 12 months — especially when stem cell therapy is part of a multifaceted holistic treatment regimen.
Stem cell treatment at my company is based on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from donated umbilical cords. That’s because research shows these cells have the best potential for healing. Once these cells are tested and screened for specific biological markers, they can be reproduced into infusions of millions of high-potency “golden cells” that studies suggest offer better results than other stem cell treatments. I’d like to see more entrepreneurs, companies and government agencies work together to make these treatments available in the U.S.
Although stem cell therapy can treat a wide range of conditions and disorders, it’s especially moving to see patients who couldn’t remember recent events gain far more brain function, especially when their doctors had told them to never expect much improvement.
No one can guarantee results, but there’s no possibility of any treatment at all without more accurate testing. Brain injuries can be tragic. We owe it to our veterans to help all we can by making sure we provide access to more accurate screening for CTE and TBI.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor