Fat-stem cell transplant a big success at MEDICard Lifestyle Center

CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) Updated March 27, 2012

Advances in medical science and technology never cease to amaze us. Among the top 10 medical breakthroughs in 2012 are the computerized bionic legs, a smart mouth guard to check athletes for concussions via Bluetooth, and CT scan for early detection of lung cancer. But probably nothing stirred up as much raging controversy as stem cells first, there were the embryonic stem cells (or stem cells from embryos). Our excitement reached fever pitch when we heard about yet another development, adult stem cells cells in the human body that can be used to repair the damaged tissue in which they are found. And now hold your breath comes the autologous fat-stem cell transplant, a total body anti-aging procedure.

Who doesn't want to live a lot longer and look so much younger? Let's face the facts from renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Florencio Q. Lucero: Stem cells have the ability to continuously divide and transform into different cells that the body needs to repair damaged cells to delay aging and regenerate diseased cells or organs. Autologous fat-stem cell transplant is the latest cutting-edge technology that's creating ripples of excitement. It's called inner rejuvenation (read: What you need to get well and live well is just lying dormant inside you, waiting to be activated).

Picture the following benefits: It boosts the immune system, helps inhibit cancer cells in the body from waking up (and going berserk), helps in managing debilitating diseases that come with aging. And yes, it slows down aging as it increases one's energy, mental alertness, and libido or sexual desire.

"It will most likely reduce illnesses and the consumption of medicines, unfortunately for drug companies, as well as increase one's productivity or working years," Dr. Lucero points out with an impish smile.

He adds, "There are no uniform results, but the good side effect is it is anti-aging. And with more energy inside you, you will surely enjoy your youthful looks."

Better energy, better health, better looks can only translate to a better quality of life.

But why fat cells? "Because we have a lot of fat in our body," comes Dr. Lucero's quick reply. "So it's something you can spare without endangering your health or your life."

We ask the good doctor, whose youthful looks belie his age: Does it really work? Is it just hype or does it offer real hope for the sick and aging?

With firmness and conviction, Dr. Lucero repeats what Spanish plastic surgeon Dr. Ramon Llull said, "Nobody knows how stem cell works, but we know it works."

Dr. Lucero confesses, "I was a skeptic about stem cells just like any other physician because I was trained in mainstream medicine and surgery in the US so I believe in evidence-based medicine if it's not in the journal, don't do it. But because I'm a plastic surgeon, I do procedures that had been tried by one or two doctors. I also try techniques for surgery that would benefit my patients in reconstruction. That's my mentality so it was easy for me to be convinced about stem cells."

He goes on to relate, "I harvested the fat for this scientist who came looking for a surgeon who could do liposuction for him. For the stem cell procedure, all he needed was a half glass of fat and then he processed it. I saw his patients and I said to myself this is really working!"

Dr. Lucero calls it a mini liposuction. The workaholic surgeon who seems to have an inexhaustible supply of energy, takes us through the procedure: 100cc of fats are suctioned out from the tummy area, as in liposuction, and these are processed to extract the stem cells that are attached to the fats. All the fats are thrown away so there's no danger of fat embolism (the blocking of an artery by a plug of fat). The stem cells are then activated with the growth factors from plasma and a special laser light. Once activated, the stem cells are added to the intravenous fluid that has been running and infused to the patient's vein in 30 minutes to one hour. The entire procedure takes four hours to finish. The effect starts to appear or be felt after two weeks. The patient can resume exercise or sports activities after two weeks. It takes longer if the patient has a disease condition or a degenerative disease.

Now a firm believer in stem cells, Dr. Lucero declares, "Honestly, there were some cases/situations where I myself couldn't believe I could help the patient. But now, I won't hesitate to give it for any kind of disease except cancer. The wonderful thing about stem cells is that they seem to have a homing device, they go exactly to the organs that need to be repaired."

Today, Dr. Lucero is the country's only licensed doctor doing fat-stem cell transplant. "I always tell people that fat is good."

He has quietly been doing stem cell transplants since 2006. One of his latest patients was a seven-year-old autistic child who was treated at the MEDICard Lifestyle Center where fat-stem cell transplants are now being successfully done. The oldest patient so far was a 92-year-old woman. Among the medical conditions of patients who have gone through a fat-stem cell transplant are: sleep apnea, heart bypass, Parkinson's, diabetes (insulin-dependent), liver cirrhosis, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, essential tremor, cardiomyopathy, and arthritis.

He asserts, "People are going for stem cells as a last resort. They want to find another option because they've long been on medication, but they're not getting well. And they're afraid that their quality of life will be compromised."

For instance, there's the dramatic case of Dr. Solomon Tan who was diagnosed with an enlarged heart in 2006. Being a doctor himself, he knew exactly what was happening to him. He recalls, "I smoked two to three packs of cigarette a day. Then I felt a sudden shortness of breath, my heart muscle had thinned off. It seemed my heart was not pumping."

With his heart functioning at only 16 percent, Dr. Tan, only 41 then, was easily a candidate for a heart transplant.

"A friend visited me in the hospital and told me about stem cells, which I heard have helped a lot of people," Tan relates. "We searched on the Internet where they do stem cells in the Philippines (it's also done in India, China, Thailand, and Germany). Suddenly, my brother and uncle stumbled upon the website of Dr. Florencio Lucero. I live in Bacolod and the nearest heart center is in Cebu. Fortunately, what happened was Dr. Lucero was attending a Botox conference in Cebu so I went to see him there."

Today, after his stem cell transplant, Dr. Tan is a man with newfound life and purpose. And yes, he no longer has an enlarged heart but only a big heart with a lot of love to share.

Also meet the ebullient Marietta Destacamento of Bacolod City who shows not a trace of her once bruising battle with cirrhosis of the liver. And to think that Marietta was not even an alcoholic or a smoker, she was just a workaholic. "I could not sleep, I was depressed," she relates. "I was an insulin-dependent diabetic. I had pneumonia."

Her brother told her to get help in Manila, which she promptly did. Last year, celebrating her 56th birthday, she found out she had cirrhosis and it was irreversible. Her only hope was a liver transplant, which cost about P4 million (without the assurance of survival).

"A liver transplant was out of the question because I didn't want my children's lives compromised," she says. "My health deteriorated so fast. My face, stomach, my whole body was bloated, as if I was nine months pregnant. Before I left for Manila, my neighbors gave me a party, maybe thinking I'd come home in a box. I even gave away all my jewelry to my nieces. I even got my son to get married last January 9 because I thought I was dying. But I didn't want to die because a lot of people, like my workers, depended on me."

Then came a ray of hope. A doctor told Marietta about Dr. Lucero. Fast-forward: The transplant was a breeze, Marietta didn't feel any pain at all. Dr. Lucero put a binder on her body and four days later, she was cleaning her house and scrubbing the floor. Two weeks later, she was at the doctor's door, gleefully declaring, "Magaling na ko!"

She adds with a beatific smile, "Last January 13, I was praying in a cathedral when I realized it was Friday the 13th. I thanked the Lord for my second life. Maybe Dr. Lucero's hands have healing powers. God used him as His instrument to make me well."

Marietta is a walking miracle. She's back in shape, her body no longer swollen. She can breathe better now and lie flat in bed without pillows. She's now less insulin-dependent and from 12 medicines she used to take, she's now down to six. She's a whole new woman, so full of life and dreams.

At the end of the day, it's not so much about adding years to one's life as adding life to one's years.

Dr. Florencio Lucero is available for consultation at the MEDICard Lifestyle Center every Tuesday and Thursday, 4-6 p.m., on a per appointment basis. Consultation fee for MEDICard members is waived and minimal consultation fee is charged for non-MEDICard members.

For inquiries on stem cells, call the MEDICard Lifestyle Center at 894-5720 or 0917-5977576 and look for Dr. Catherine Jimenez.

Visit the MEDICard Lifestyle Center at 51 Paseo de Roxas corner Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City.


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