Philippine economy

Stem cell therapy for your health: 4 things you need to know

Vernise Tantuco
Stem cell therapy for your health: 4 things you need to know

Alecs Ongcal

Stem cells can prevent diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's – here's how they work

MANILA, Philippines – Stem cell therapy may not be what first comes to mind when the topic of health and wellness is brought up, but it’s an option that has made the rounds abroad and is now here in the Philippines.

The treatment, also called regenerative cell therapy (RCT), uses stem cells to restore damaged or weaker cells and tissues – it’s often used to treat joints or cancer, through a bone marrow transplant.

But RCT for wellness is a preventive measure, rather than a cure – it’s a way of improving the “quality of life,” said doctor Mary Jane Torres, owner and medical director of The Zen Institute, a medical spa that offers the treatment at around P500,000 to P800,000.

“Stem cells are usually decreased when you age. It cannot cope with the wear and tear of your body,” Torres explained, on why people usually get RCT. By extracting your own stem cells and re-injecting them into your body, they’re activated once again, initiating cell growth.

But how exactly are stem cells used as an anti-aging treatment? Here are all our questions answered by Dr. Torres. 

How does RCT for wellness work?

When you undergo stem cell therapy for wellness, your own stem cells are collected and injected intravenously back into your body. The treatment is supposed to work the same way as localized RCT – what’s used to treat swelling in the knee, for example – but for your entire body, by boosting your immune system and preventing degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

What’s the procedure?

At The Zen Institute, stem cells are taken either from your blood or from your fat. Blood is drawn as you would for a blood test, while fat is removed from the abdomen using a needle. Not a lot of fat is needed – 200 cc – but some patients opt to undergo liposuction along with RCT, since their fat is already being removed.

OPERATING ROOM. RCT is a non-invasive procedure, but it's done at The Zen Institute's sterile clinic, rather than one of the spa's other rooms. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

The fat or blood goes into a machine to separate the stem cells, which are then injected intravenously to the patient within the same day.

Patients can do the procedure awake and it takes about 4 hours.

Who can get the procedure?

Torres recommends RCT for people over 30 who are not sick but have a family history of cancer or degenerative diseases. Cancer patients in remission can do it as well, or people with controlled diabetes or hypertension. She reiterated that RCT is not a cure – it’s a means of prevention.

How do you know it’s working and long will the effects last?

According to Torres, the effects of RCT will last for 5 years, though The Zen Institute also gives their patients a “booster” after a few years to make sure their stem cells are at a certain level.

To check if the treatment is effective, The Zen Institute measures the free radicals in their patients’ blood before and after the procedure. “Usually there’s a dramatic drop in the oxidative stress test,” said Torres on the results.

Torres herself had the treatment done two years ago, and said that she did feel an increase in energy, and noticed an increase in metabolism, both of which spurred on her exercise and activities, making her slimmer. Torres also has health reasons for undergoing RCT – her father died of cancer at 60 years old, and her mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at 65.

Would you consider getting stem cell treatment for your health? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below! –

Editor’s note: This article previously stated a different price for The Zen Institute’s RCT treatment. This has been corrected. We apologize for the error. 

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Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.