The astonishing effect of stem cell implants – as groundbreaking treatment ‘transforms’ life for those with brain damage and MS

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  •  Stem cell transplants have made patients more clear-headed and mobile
  • ‘Blank’ cells are taken from the patient’s own body regenerate dead brain cells
  •  READ MORE: Have scientists found a way to reverse sight loss?

Michael Adams was 16 when, after being thrown from his car in a devastating accident, he fractured his skull in three places. 

The film producer from New York fell into a coma for two weeks, and woke up a shadow of his former bright, fun-loving self.

For the following decade, he had trouble speaking, making friends and completing the simplest of daily tasks due to extensive nerve damage to his brain.

Until, that is, he happened across what is perhaps one of the most remarkable medical advances in modern history.

Stem cell transplants – in which ‘blank, shape-shifting’ cells are implanted to miraculously repair injured tissue – are the new frontier of regenerative medicine.

Speaking to DailyMail.com, experts have said the results of these procedures can go as far as to, ‘see patients go from a wheelchair, to walking’. 

Michael Adams, 30, was cured of nerve damage to his brain following a near-fatal car accident, and said he now feels more clear-headed

Another patient, Richard Benedetto, was able to travel Italy with his family without any difficulty walking, despite his previously disabling MS.

Another patient, Richard Benedetto, was able to travel Italy with his family without any difficulty walking, despite his previously disabling MS. 

So far, this groundbreaking field of medicine has made waves in the fields of cancers, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders.

Now, doctors are using them to repair years worth of brain damage – even restoring some paralyzed patients’ ability to walk.

Michael Adams underwent this astonishing operation to transplant healthy stem cells extracted from his belly into his brain in 2019. 

He has undergone several follow up transplants since, with his latest just a few months a go.

Today, the nerve damage sustained during the injury is completely repaired.

He’s more clear-headed, can participate in conversations, bolstered his friendships, and has built a career in filmmaking. 

‘I noticed my career took a huge turn. From these low level music videos to all this other stuff,’ Mr Adams told DailyMail.com. ‘The moment I started doing stem cells. My entire life completely changed.’

Stem cell transplants are the greatest innovation in regenerative medicine that most people know nothing about.

Taken from the patient’s own body, the cells are purified and then reimplanted in an area of a person’s body where cells have died, such as brain tissue, and regrows them.

Dr Scheer, an expert in regenerative medicine who treats both Mr Adams and Mr Benedetto in New York City, told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s so beautiful to watch. I mean, to see a patient go from a wheelchair, to be able to walk is, to me, why I went into medicine.’

A stem cell transplant is not a one-time-only procedure. Because the cost is so high – as much as $20,000 per treatment – many people can only afford to do it two or three times per year.

Mr Adams received his first stem cell treatment nine years ago, and has never looked back. The transplants have helped him think more clearly and have repaired his nerve damage

Mr Adams received his first stem cell treatment nine years ago, and has never looked back. The transplants have helped him think more clearly and have repaired his nerve damage

However many times they need it depends on their condition, Dr Scheer said, but there do not appear to be any downsides to doing it monthly.

His is not the only American to seen his life transformed by this gold standard in regenerative medicine. 

Fellow New Yorker Richard Benedetto, 56, who has the progressive, degenerative disease multiple sclerosis, regained his ability to walk after a series operations to transplant stem cells into his brain. 

Previously stuck in bed with pain in his limbs, he was prepared to cancel a long-awaited trip to Italy. 

He said that after his first transplant mere days before the trip, ‘I walked all over Rome, Amalfi, all over. We actually, all of us climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius and I never even looked back from that day on.’ 

Benedetto was in the right place at the right time—the office of Dr Alexander Scheer, who knew immediately that the transplants would help his MS that had hindered his ability to walk as he used to. 

Stem cell transplants, what doctors call the cornerstone of regenerative medicine, have also allowed completely immobile people to walk again by regrowing tissue.

Both patients received liposuction on the belly to extract stem cells from fat tissue, but stem cells can be taken from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, or the placenta.

Around 70 percent of MS patients who receive stem cell transplants were disease-free in five years, while studies have shown up to 90 percent of TBI patients treated with stem cells have exhibited improvements in their injuries.

Mr Adams is now a multi-hyphenate who wears an endless number of hats, from music video producer to mining magnate to filmmaker

Mr Adams is now a multi-hyphenate who wears an endless number of hats, from music video producer to mining magnate to filmmaker

Mr Adams, 30 of New York, felt he benefitted so much from early treatments for his brain injury that he now receives a transplant around once a month.

He told DailyMail.com: ‘I’m a lot more aware, a lot better at speaking, articulating, understanding. After my car accident, things got really hard for me.

‘It was hard for me to have a conversation with somebody and pay attention.’

He came about the treatments by conducting his own exhaustive research but his first foray into stem cell research came from an episode of South Park in which it was referenced.

From there, he had to learn more. And in 2018, he found Dr Scheer and immediately felt assured and heard. This can be a novelty, as Mr Adams said, adding that most doctors prioritize profits over comprehensive patient care.

He said: ‘I’m not gonna lie, it was extremely uncomfortable at first because I didn’t know what I was getting into.

‘Now it’s like nothing. But at first, you’d be awake and you’re watching somebody put a needle in your stomach and just carve out some fat.’

The stem cells, which can rebuild dead and dying cells, regenerated new cells in Mr Adams’ brain.

When the brain becomes damaged, the protective blood-brain barrier is damaged, too, and leads to swelling and further damage to the brain cells.

If that damage remains untreated, and the disruption to the blood-brain barrier continues, harmful substances such as toxins or immune cells can enter the brain.

This sets off the body’s immune system, causing inflammation as it works to clear out the harmful substances and fix the damage.

Stem cells can regenerate into any kind of cell by a process called differentiation, which allows them to become tailored to specific organ systems.

Dr Scheer said: ‘When you introduce the cells, which are the first thing you’re trying to do, is to suppress that inflammatory response. Once you’re able to suppress the inflammation, the cells can differentiate into other cells.

‘And since they’re in the nervous system, they’re going to develop into nerve cells. And what we’ve seen over time, is that it actually slows down the progression.’

While Mr Adams found Dr Scheer through his own thorough investigation, Mr Benedetto was fortunate to stumble into stem cells treatments.

While visiting Dr Scheer with his son who had a medical issue to tend to, the doctor got to talking to Richard, his MS, and treatment options available to him.

Mr Benedetto with his wife Mary Beth. He told DailyMail.com that there have been many days spent in bed because the pain in his limbs was so great. Thanks to stem cells, though, he is able to walk as he used to before his MS diagnosis

Mr Benedetto with his wife Mary Beth. He told DailyMail.com that there have been many days spent in bed because the pain in his limbs was so great. Thanks to stem cells, though, he is able to walk as he used to before his MS diagnosis

Mr Benedetto, shown center in the black shirt, has seen the lesions in his brain from MS decrease thanks to stem cells

Mr Benedetto, shown center in the black shirt, has seen the lesions in his brain from MS decrease thanks to stem cells

Mr Benedetto said: ‘They harvested from me, and the needle had to be about 16 inches long. They took it out of my belly fat.’

‘At this point we were going to Italy; my daughter was studying in Rome. It was a Friday we were leaving. And I was waiting and waiting and waiting for the stem cells.’

He was a little nervous about the trip. He has spent many days stuck in bed because the pain of moving was simply too much.

When he did walk, his balance was off, and he couldn’t count on himself to keep up with his family in Rome. But on Monday, before the trip, the stem cells were ready for transplantation.

By Friday, he was on a plane to Italy, ready for an adventure.  

Stem cells are highly targeted therapies, because they come from your own body. Doctors extract them, refurbish them to work elsewhere in the body, and then they are transplanted there, where they regrow lost cells

Stem cells are highly targeted therapies, because they come from your own body. Doctors extract them, refurbish them to work elsewhere in the body, and then they are transplanted there, where they regrow lost cells

Mr Benedetto was diagnosed with MS in 2010, a huge shock for his adult children and his wife Mary Beth.

‘I was coaching my two sons in Little League, and they’re throwing the ball back from the infield, and I couldn’t close my glove to catch it, and I knew something was going on. [Another time] I dropped an egg and I started to get numb from the feet all the way up, just progressing all the way up to my hips.’

The pain and impact on his ability to move with his normal ease forced him into early retirement as a guard at the notorious Sing Sing prison.

When they found Dr Scheer, everything changed. So much so that he’s been able to go back to work.

MS causes lesions in the brain, which means it causes destructive damage to the central nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord.

The lesions occur when the body’s own immune system turns on itself, attacking the protective covering of nerve fibers (myelin) and the nerve fibers themselves.

The resulting damage disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, leading to the various symptoms associated with MS, such as weakness in the legs, fatigue, coordination problems, cognitive changes, and pain.

Remarkably, the stem cell infusions have reversed some of the damage in his brain, allowing restoration of mobility.

Mr Benedetto said: ‘I get a brain scan every six months ago, several go scan every six months, and for the first time, they telling me that my lesions are shrinking.’

Stem cells can generate new neurons and connect them to existing neurons by forming connections with their dendrites, or the branches of neurons that receive signals from other neurons.

This process helps repair or rebuild damaged neural circuits, which could be beneficial for conditions involving neurological damage or degeneration, such as certain types of brain injuries or diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

The transplants have completely changed the patients’ lives in immeasurable ways.

Mr Adams is now a multi-hyphenate who wears an endless number of hats, from music video producer to mining magnate to filmmaker.

Meanwhile, Mr Benedetto will be walking his daughter down the aisle in October.

He said: ‘I get to be the best person I can possibly be.’

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