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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — You eat right and exercise for the health benefits today and hopefully tomorrow.
But now, a growing number of people are taking an extra precaution when it comes to the future of their health — by storing their own stem cells.
Is it stem cell hope — or hype?
Despite what he looks like, 27-year-old Douglas Giampapa is in the best of health.
But he’s preparing for the fact that one day he may not be.
“My grandfather had a history of heart disease and there is some history of some other ailments in my family, cancer on one side,” Giampapa told CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips.
Giampapa has had his stem cells extracted from his blood — to be frozen — for potential use down the line.
And he’s not alone.
“It really is the future of medicine,” Dr. Robin Smith said.
Our bodies are built from stem cells and they’re believed to hold the key to curing disease and injury. Until recently it was believed that only stem cells from embryos had this benefit, but now new studies show adult stem cells may also help the body heal itself.
“Stem cells are your body’s own repair mechanism,” Dr. Smith said.
Now, a growing number of adult stem cell collection centers are popping up all across the country. Smith is the CEO of one of them, called NeoStem.
“Having your stem cells is an insurance, if you will. It’s bio-insurance that’s being prepared for your future, a healthy future,” Dr. Smith said.
Smith said adult stem cells have already been used to save the lives of people with certain forms of cancer and have shown promise in reversing the damage of heart attacks.
The potential is endless.
“Whether it can be heart muscle, MS, lupus, diabetes, people are looking to see what type of cells, how they should be administered to repair tissue,” Dr. Smith said.
But others in the field say the technology of saving stem cells is outpacing the ability to actually utilize them.
“I think the jury is really out,” said Susan Solomon of the New York Stem Cell Foundation.
Solomon said while it’s true adult stem cells will one day be at the forefront of curing a wide range of diseases, it may not be any time soon, and it may require a different method of collection.
“Our view is by the time those uses are developed, there are going to be models that are going to, in effect, replace that,” Solomon said.
Still, many like Giampapa are banking on the idea.
“This is the most important thing I can do now in order to help insure my future health maybe three or four decades from now when I might need these adult stem cells,” Giampapa said.
It costs about $7,500 to have your stem cells extracted, and $700 a year to keep them stored. They should last you for 30 years.
Adult stem cells are also already in use for cosmetic purposes, including reducing wrinkles and plumping lips. For more information, please click here.