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Posts tagged ‘stem cell’

Stem cell scientist ‘guilty of misconduct’

Dr Haruko Obokata
Dr Haruko Obokata presented her findings in January

 

An investigation into a supposedly groundbreaking stem cell study in Japan has found the lead researcher guilty of misconduct.

The Riken Centre panel said Dr Haruko Obokata fabricated her work in an intentionally misleading fashion.

It said there were irregularities in data and images used in Dr Obokata’s scientific papers published in Nature.

She stands by her claim to be able to produce stem cells using an acid bath or mechanical stress.

There were high hopes about the technique that promised to offer a cheap and ethical source of stem cells.

Stem cells can become any other type of tissue and are already being investigated to heal the damage caused by a heart attack and to restore sight to the blind.

But experts have been questioning Dr Obokata’s findings and other research groups have failed to reproduce her results.

Petri dishes filled with stem cells
The scientist offered what appeared to be an easy way to create stem cells

Misleading

One of Dr Obokata’s articles reused images related to her doctoral dissertation, which was based on different experiments.

“Actions like this completely destroy data credibility,” Shunsuke Ishii, head of the Riken committee, told a news conference.

“There is no doubt that she was fully aware of this danger. We’ve therefore concluded this was an act of research misconduct involving fabrication.”

In a statement, Dr Obokata said she would soon file a complaint with Riken, challenging the panel’s findings.

“I’m filled with shock and indignation,” she said. “If things stay as they are, misunderstanding could arise that the discovery of stap [stem] cells itself is forgery. That would be utterly unacceptable.”

via BBC News – Stem cell scientist ‘guilty of misconduct’.

A*STAR scientists create stem cells from drop of blood

a-star-stem-cells-2968095
Marker stainting of human pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs)  (Photo: Loh Yuin Han, Jonathan, IMCB)

 

Scientists at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood.

SINGAPORE: Scientists at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood.

The new technique could potentially boost the number and diversity of donors, and facilitate the setting up of large-scale hiPSC banks, said the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in a news release on Thursday.

Current sample collection for reprogramming into human induced pluripotent stem cells include invasive methods, such as collecting cells from the bone marrow or skin, which may put off potential donors.

Although the stem cells may also be generated from blood cells, a large amount of blood is usually required.

But scientists at IMCB showed for the first time that single-drop volumes of blood are sufficient for reprogramming into human induced pluripotent stem cells.

As those cells show properties remarkably similar to human embryonic stem cells, they are invaluable for basic research, drug discovery and cell therapy.

The finger-prick technique is the world’s first to use only a drop of finger-pricked blood to yield hiPSCs with high efficiency.

The work is published online in the Stem Cell Translational Medicine journal.

Lead scientist for the finger-prick hiPSC technique Dr Jonathan Loh Yuin Han said, “Our finger-prick technique, in fact, utilised less than a drop of finger-pricked blood. The remaining blood could even be used for DNA sequencing and other blood tests.”

Senior consultant at the National Heart Centre Singapore and co-author of the paper, Dr Stuart Alexander Cook, said, “We were able to differentiate the hiPSCs reprogrammed from Jonathan’s finger-prick technique, into functional heart cells.”

The accessibility of the new technique is further enhanced with a DIY sample collection approach.

Donors may collect their own finger-pricked blood, which they can then store and send to a laboratory for reprogramming.

IMCB executive director Professor Hong Wanjin said, “Research on hiPSCs is now highly sought-after, given its potential to be used as a model for studying human diseases and for regenerative medicine.”

A*STAR said a patent has been filed for the innovation.

– CNA/nd

via A*STAR scientists create stem cells from drop of blood – Channel NewsAsia.

BBC News – Tiny stem-cell livers grown in laboratory


The liver breaks down toxins

Tiny functioning human livers have been grown from stem cells in the laboratory by scientists in Japan.

They said they were “gobsmacked” when liver buds, the earliest stage of the organ’s development, formed spontaneously.

The team, reporting their findings in Nature, hope that transplanting thousands of liver buds could reverse liver failure.

Experts welcomed the findings, describing them as “exciting”.

Scientists around the world are trying to grow organs in the lab to overcome a shortage of organ donors.

Some patients already have bladders made from their own cells, but dense solid organs such as the liver and kidneys are much harder to produce.

Grow your own

The team at the Yokohama City University were reproducing the earliest stages of liver development – similar to that in an embryo.

They had mixed three types of cells – two types of stem cells and material taken from the umbilical cord.

Unexpectedly, the cells began to organise themselves and appeared to curl up to form a liver bud.

These buds were transplanted into mice, where they hooked themselves up with the blood supply and began to function as little livers.

The transplants increased the lifespan of mice with liver failure.

Prof Takanori Takebe said: “We just simply mixed three cell types and found that they unexpectedly self-organise to form a three-dimensional liver bud – this is a rudimentary liver.

“And finally we proved that liver bud transplantation could offer therapeutic potential against liver failure.”

He told the BBC that he was “completely gobsmacked” and “absolutely surprised” when he first witnessed the buds forming.

Treatment hope

It is thought that other organs such as the pancreas, kidneys and even the lungs could be developed in the same way. However, turning this into a treatment is still a distant prospect.

The buds are 4-5mm in length but the researchers say they would need to develop buds that are much smaller and could be injected into the blood.

The buds would not grow to be a whole new liver, but would embed themselves in the failing one and restore it.

Dr Varuna Aluvihare, a liver transplant physician at King’s College Hospital in London, told BBC News: “This a great piece of work and as a proof of concept, very interesting.

“The real highlight is that such simple mixtures of cells can differentiate and organise themselves into highly complex tissue structures that function well in an animal model.”

He said the liver was very damaged in chronic liver disease so there were still questions about where the buds were transplanted and how they would function.

The risk of a tumour developing after the transplant would also need to be assessed.

Dr Dusko Ilic, a stem cell scientist at King’s College London, said: “The strategy is very promising, and represents a huge step forward.

“Although the promise of an off-the-shelf-liver seems much closer than one could hope even a year ago, the paper is only a proof of concept. There is much unknown and it will take years before it could be applied in regenerative medicine.”

Prof Chris Mason, the chair of regenerative medicine at University College London, said there might be more immediate benefits for drug testing.

New medicines can be toxic to the human liver in a way which does not show up in animal tests. He said using liver buds might be a better way to test for toxicity.

Analysis

This is a significant advance for the field of regenerative medicine.

It might seem like science fiction but there are already people walking around today with organs made from stem cells.

A major breakthrough came in 2006 when bladders made from patients’ own cells were implanted. Grown windpipes have also been transplanted.

In regenerative medicine there are four levels of complexity: flat structures such as skin; tubes such as blood vessels; hollow organs such as the bladder; and solid organs such as the kidney, heart and liver.

The last group is the most difficult as they are complex organs containing many types of tissue.

This is a new approach to growing solid organs and is yet another window on what could be the future of organ transplants.

via BBC News – Tiny stem-cell livers grown in laboratory.

S’pore stem cell transplant programme receives international accreditation

File photo: Researcher working on stem cells (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP )

 

SINGAPORE: A stem cell transplant programme offered in Singapore has received international accreditation.

The programme, offered by the National University Cancer Institute and the National University Hospital (NUH), is the first in Asia to be recognised.

The accreditation is offered by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre.

It’s seen as the gold standard for hospitals and medical institutions offering stem cell transplant.

In Singapore , both NUH and the National University Cancer Institute had to go through a rigorous screening process.

Improvements were made to address areas such as patient safety and laboratory practices.

The hospitals’ stem cell programme addresses adult as well as childhood illnesses.

Together, they perform up to 65 of the 180 transplants that are done each year in Singapore.

Stem cell transplants are done to treat diseases such as leukaemia, lymphoma and thalassaemia.

Patients come from as far off as Russia, Mongolia and the Middle East.

The FACT accreditation is reviewed every three years.

Professor Dario Campana of the Department of Paediatrics at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said: “The FACT accreditation demonstrates that the centre meets the highest possible standards and it’s capable of doing the most complex of current procedures. In addition to that, it also shows that the setup allows us to implement innovative therapies.”

Professor John Wong, director of the National University Cancer Institute (Singapore) and deputy chief executive of the National University Health System, said: “It assures our patients that the quality of care that they receive when they have stem cell therapy here is of the highest international standards for both safety and quality.”

Stem cell transplant patient Mohd Iswan said the procedure gave him a new lease of life. He was treated for leukaemia, and his stem cell donor was his father.

“I did my transplant when I was 14 years old, six years ago. Now I’m alive and well, I can do my sports. I can do my rock climbing, I can do my cycling. I’m alive and healthy,” he said.

CNA/ck/ac

Using stem cells to regenerate cartilage

Medical pioneer: (Above) Dr Saw Khay Yong with a patient.

Medical pioneer: (Above) Dr Saw Khay Yong with a patient.
A team of Malaysian doctors achieved success and gained international attention by being innovative, passionate – and a little bit crazy.

ON a quiet weekend in 2011, hand surgeon Dr Ranjit Singh Gill flexed his fingers as he watched a limousine and police outriders pull up to the front entrance of the Kuala Lumpur Sports Medicine Centre (KLSMC).

A middle-aged man emerged from the car flanked by bodyguards. Dr Ranjit Singh greeted his patient. The whole group crowded into an elevator which took them to the fifth floor where a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine awaited. The bodyguards stood sentry outside.

“My arm has been bothering me,” the patient told Dr Ranjit Singh. After he gently flexed his patient’s arm and studied the MRI scans, he suggested that the patient undergo keyhole surgery and five rounds of stem cell injections.

These stem cells would repair the injured area and regenerate the cartilage tissue. The treatment was so simple, it was almost too good to be true.

In fact, global experts in the field of orthopaedics are divided over the use of adult stem cells to repair cartilage.

“Cartilage basically does not heal,” Dr Hubert Kim, director of the Cartilage Repair and Regeneration Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, is quoted as saying in an interview on the centre’s website.

Dr Ranjit Singh’s treatment, developed in Malaysia, flew in the face of medical textbooks. It took guts to suggest the road less travelled.

“Doctors should always take the route that’s safest for the patient. But sometimes, the textbook solution is not necessarily the safest way of doing things,” Dr Ranjit Singh told me in a series of interviews, as he recounted treating this unique patient, who shall go unnamed because of doctor-patient confidentiality.

“You need to continuously challenge yourself with difficult decisions. It’s a big responsibility.”

That is leadership on the cutting-edge, metaphorically and medically speaking. Thanks to its doctors’ research on stem cell therapy, the KLSMC has emerged as a clinical and research powerhouse for orthopaedic work globally, achieving a pace of innovation unmatched by most private practices in the country.
Stem cells being injected into a patient’s knee.

Stem cells being injected into a patient’s knee.
The doctors here have temerity, talent and a good track record to provide cutting-edge – sometimes experimental – treatments to rival the best in advanced nations.

The KLSMC journey toward the cutting-edge began in 2005 when Dr Ranjit Singh’s colleague, orthopaedic surgeon and KLSMC founder Dr Saw Khay Yong, successfully regenerated cartilage in the knee joints of goats.

Then, Dr Saw tried to regenerate normal cartilage in patients’ knees by injecting the patients’ own blood stem cells into their knees after drilling holes into the underlying bone. That worked too.

Drawing on Dr Saw’s success with knees, Dr Ranjit Singh tested out the articular cartilage regeneration procedure on the limbs of three patients. Again, success. Cartilage could be regrown.

The early studies, published in international scientific journals, drew interest from orthopaedic specialists and university lecturers from the United States and Britain, who flew to Kuala Lumpur to learn the latest techniques from KLSMC.

“Their technology will change orthopaedic surgery forever,” Dr Adam Anz, a Florida orthopaedic surgeon, said in an interview.

Exciting as that was, Dr Ranjit Singh was now recommending this relatively new procedure – tested on a bunch of goats and a few people – to one of the most famous people in Malaysia.

“This procedure isn’t in the medical textbooks,” Dr Ranjit Singh told his patient. “Will you consider it?”
Dr Ranjit Singh going over a case with a patient.

Dr Ranjit Singh going over a case with a patient.
“I’ll think about it,” the patient said.

Dr Ranjit Singh shook his head as he watched his patient hop into the limo and leave the hospital accompanied by the wail of police sirens.

Was he brilliant? Or crazy? Probably both, he concluded.

It is the norm for doctors to leave the public health system to join private practice. It is unusual for a half-dozen orthopaedic specialists, headed by Dr Saw, to leave their private practice to start their own hospital in Bukit Damansara.

It’s extremely rare for such doctors to embark on stem cell research – even while they were designing the hospital building and paying off mortgages and praying for patients to show up. And it’s probably crazy to think of even setting up a stem cell lab in a country where research infrastructure is relatively sparse.

“Is there a better way of doing things in hospitals?” Dr Saw mused aloud during an interview at Nerofico, an Italian restaurant on the ground floor of KLSMC, which serves gourmet food to its patients. “We dreamed of seeing and scanning the patient the same day, and then doing surgery the next day.”

“We were passionate and obsessive about wanting to do things properly. But logically, the risk was still too high to set up a centre so big,” Dr Ranjit Singh added, as he gestured broadly toward the nine floors of the hospital, which includes a pharmacy, a laboratory, operating theatres, a gorgeous high-ceilinged physiotherapy centre on the eighth floor and a rooftop hydrotherapy pool.

“So we needed the final magic ingredient: you have to be a little bit crazy.”

Their craziness has paid off. Thanks to their original research conducted with Universiti Putra Malaysia in 2005, Dr Saw and his colleagues began providing stem cell therapy for sports-related and other common joint injuries.

Soon they found themselves treating national athletes, weightlifters and international patients.

In May this year, world No 1 badminton player Datuk Lee Chong Wei injured his right ankle. Most Malaysians wrote off his chances of competing at the London Olympics. Lee went to KLSMC for stem cell injections into a torn ligament. He recovered quickly.

A few months later, Dr Saw found himself joining millions of Malaysians cheering on Lee in the breathtaking Olympic final against Lin Dan. “I was watching his ankle all the time and hoping he wouldn’t twist it again.”

Dr Saw’s pioneering work in regenerating knee cartilage has won praise from the editors of the peer-reviewed Journal Of Arthroscopic And Related Surgery. In two separate editorials, editor-in-chief Professor Gary Poehling urged readers to study the research published by Dr Saw in Malaysia and his co-authors in North Carolina and Alaska.

Prof Poehling described the diagrams as “amazing” and “priceless” and concluded that “stem cells have vast potential”. Dr Saw continues to publish papers that show evidence that articular cartilage in the knee joint can be regenerated.
Dr Saw Khay Yong: ‘We were passionate and obsessive about wanting to do things properly,’ he says of the KLSMC setup.

Dr Saw Khay Yong: ‘We were passionate and obsessive about wanting to do things properly,’ he says of the KLSMC setup.
The KLSMC doctors’ research has now broadened stem cell treatment into cartilage, soft tissue, nerves and tendons – building on ground-breaking work carried out by specialists in multiple fields throughout the world.

“Right now this is the best possible treatment ever,” said Dr Anz, who has flown to Malaysia several times to learn new techniques and collaborate with Dr Saw.

“We want to give our patients the best treatment possible. Once they see it involves stem cells – and they see how it’s so easy to harvest, easy to process, easy to store and easy to inject into (a) patient – that’s going to change the world.”

Currently, Dr Saw and his colleagues are planning a worldwide multicentre trial. The goal is to prove to the global medical fraternity that this form of stem cell treatment works.

“As we will be the principal investigator, a worldwide randomised control trial will showcase biotechnology in Malaysia,” Dr Saw said. “You’ll change the way cartilage injuries are treated. And you’ll rewrite the textbooks.”

Dr Ranjit Singh wasn’t out to rewrite textbooks when he began treating his patient with the arm problem. All he wanted to do was provide the best care possible. So he sent an e-mail to two famous orthopaedic surgeons asking a second opinion on whether or not he should inject stem cells into his famous patient.

“Are you crazy?” a doctor from France replied. However, Dr Ranjit Singh’s mentor urged him to go for it. Faced with two opposite opinions, he knew what he had to do: he went for it.

“It will take several weeks for the stem cells to recognise the injured area and regenerate the tissue, which will reattach back to the bone,” he explained to his patient.

After the keyhole surgery, the patient returned to KLSMC five times for stem cell injections.

Four months later, Dr Ranjit Singh met his patient and asked: “How’s the arm?”

“Perfectly fine,” the patient replied.

As the surgeon reflected on his unique patient – just one among many cases he has treated – perhaps the biggest leadership lesson he learned is to do what you love.

“Doing what you love will drive you all the way – to be focused and persistent, to practise and practise, and finally to have that extra bit of craziness that pushes you forward.

“If you love your job, you’ll do well in it. And if you do well in it, you’ll love your job,” he said.

The Star

Creating stem cell eggs, a potential infertility cure

File photo: Researcher working on stem cells (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP )

CHICAGO: Japanese researchers have discovered a potential cure for some forms of infertility by using stem cells to create viable eggs in living mice, a study published Thursday found.

While the method is far from being ready for possible human use, it did overcome a key challenge in reproductive medicine: how to construct viable eggs for women incapable of producing their own.

The researchers at Kyoto University tinkered with a few genes in the stem cells and turned them into cells which were very similar to the primordial germ cells which generate sperm in men and oocytes — or eggs — in women.

They then created a “reconstituted ovary” which they transplanted into living mice, where the cells matured into fully-grown oocytes.

They extracted the matured oocytes, fertilized them in vitro, and then implanted them into foster mother mice.

The mice pups were born healthy and were even able to reproduce once they matured.

“Our system serves as a robust foundation to investigate and further reconstitute female germline development in vitro, not only in mice, but also in other mammals, including humans,” lead author Katsuhiko Hayashi wrote.

The study builds on another published last year in which the same researchers coaxed stem cells into viable sperm.

– AFP/sf

CNA

Stem cell shield ‘could protect cancer patients’

Brain tumour
The trial is being conducted on patients with brain cancer

 

It may be possible to use “stem cell shielding” to protect the body from the damaging effects of chemotherapy, early results from a US trial suggest.

Chemotherapy drugs try to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, but they can also affect other healthy tissues such as bone marrow.

A study, in Science Translational Medicine, used genetically modified stem cells to protect the bone marrow.

Cancer Research UK said it was a “completely new approach”.

The body constantly churns out new blood cells in the hollow spaces inside bone. However, bone marrow is incredibly susceptible to chemotherapy.

The treatment results in fewer white blood cells being produced, which increases the risk of infection, and fewer red blood cells, which leads to shortness of breath and tiredness.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, said these effects were “a major barrier” to using chemotherapy and often meant the treatment had to be stopped, delayed or reduced.

‘Protective shields’

They have tried to protect the bone marrow in three patients with a type of brain cancer, glioblastoma.

One of the researchers, Dr Jennifer Adair, said: “This therapy is analogous to firing at both tumour cells and bone marrow cells, but giving the bone marrow cells protective shields while the tumour cells are unshielded.”

Bone marrow was taken from the patients and stem cells, which produce blood, were isolated. A virus was then used to infect the cells with a gene which protected the cells against a chemotherapy drug. The cells were then put back into the patient.

The lead author of the report, Prof Hans-Peter Kiem, said: “We found that patients were able to tolerate the chemotherapy better, and without negative side effects, after transplantation of the gene-modified stem cells than patients in previous studies who received the same type of chemotherapy without a transplant of gene-modified stem cells.”

The researchers said the three patients had all lived longer than the average survival time of 12 months for the cancer. They said one patient was still alive 34 months after treatment.

Cancer Research UK scientist Prof Susan Short said: “This is a very interesting study and a completely new approach to protecting normal cells during cancer treatment.

“It needs to be tested in more patients but it may mean that we can use temozolomide [a chemotherapy drug] for more brain tumour patients than we previously thought.

“This approach could also be a model for other situations where the bone marrow is affected by cancer treatment.”

BBC

Stem cells beat kidney rejection


The study involved eight patients

An injection of stem cells given alongside a kidney transplant could remove the need for a lifetime of drugs to suppress the immune system, say scientists.

Early tests of the technique at US hospitals were successful in a small number of patients.

The journal Science Translational Medicine reports how the majority no longer need anti-rejection medication.

Researchers said it could have a “major impact” on transplant science.

One of the key problems associated with organ transplantation is the risk that the body will “recognise” the new organ as a foreign invader and attack it.

To prevent this, patients take powerful drugs to suppress their immune systems, and will have to do this for life.

The drugs come at a price, preventing organ rejection but increasing the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and serious infection.

Challenges

The study, carried out at the University of Louisville and the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, involved eight patients.

Their transplant came from a live donor, who also underwent a procedure to draw stem cells, the building blocks of their immune system, from the blood.

The transplant recipient’s body was prepared using radiotherapy and chemotherapy to suppress their own immune system.

Then the transplant went ahead, with the stem cells put into their body a couple of days later.

It’s almost surreal when I think about it because I feel so healthy and normal”

Lindsay Porter

The idea is that these will help generate a modified immune system that no longer attacks the organ or its new owner.

Although the patients started off with the same anti-rejection drugs, the aim was to reduce these slowly, hopefully withdrawing them completely over time.

Five out of the eight patients involved in the trial managed to do this within a year.

One of those is 47-year-old Lindsay Porter, from Chicago.

She said: “I hear about the challenges recipients have to face with their medications and it is significant.

“It’s almost surreal when I think about it because I feel so healthy and normal.”

Dr Joseph Leventhal, associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “The preliminary results from this ongoing study are exciting and may have a major impact on organ transplantation in the future.”

He said that, as well as kidney patients, the technique might improve the lives of those receiving other organs.

While stem cells from organ donors have been used before, this is the first time it has been used for “mismatched” transplants, in which donors and recipients do not have to be related and immunologically similar.

 

Read More: BBC

Ground breaking discovery on stem cell regulation


Stem cell research. (AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

 

 

SINGAPORE: Scientists from the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) have made a ground breaking discovery on stem cell regulation.

They have found a new link between polyamine levels and embryonic stem cells (ESC).

Using a mouse model, the team of scientists showed that high levels of Amd1, a key enzyme in the polyamine synthesis pathway, is essential for maintaining the ESC state and self renewal of ESCs.

Amd1, or Adenosyl methionine decarboxylase is a critical enzme required for the synthesis of the polyamines spermine and spermidine.

While the polyamine pathway is well established and polyamines are known to be important in cancer and cell proliferation, their role in ESC regulation until now was unknown.

The scientists said the discovery is a key step in bringing cellular therapies from the laboratory to the clinic.

Embryonic stem cells hold great potential for the development of cellular therapies, where stem cells are used to repair tissue damaged by disease or trauma.

Their paper has been published in the journal Genes & Development.

The IMB is a research institute under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

CNA/cc

Stem cell banking: The newest lure in medical tourism

By Frances Cha, Seoul Editor

 


It’s not a bank — it’s a stem cell bank. Chaum occupies the first seven floors of this skyscraper in Cheongdam-dong, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Korea.

 

When Min Lee, 54, first toured Chaum Life Center — which is spearheading Korea’s stem cell banking industry — she didn’t quite know what to make of it.

 

“It rather looks and sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, with all the talk about stem cell treatments,” said Lee, who accompanied her friend to a fitness class at the medical facility and soon found herself touring the luxurious 20,000-square-meter premises in disbelief.

 

Opened in 2010 and operated by Cha Hospital, one of the larger hospitals in Korea, Chaum has more state-of-the-art technology than a university hospital, but styles itself as a “Life Center.”

 

It has been the subject of significant media attention recently for its glittering facilities, controversial stem cell treatment, customized schools of therapy and hefty membership fees that match its ritzy Cheongdam-dong location.

 

The deposit for a membership costs ₩170 million (approximately US$152,000, and returned after 10 years) and an additional annual charge of ₩4.5 million (approximately US$4,000).

 

Memberships, which feature a number of checkups and treatments, including stem cell banking, are sold only to Koreans. International patients are billed according to the specific treatments received.


This stem cell tank, displayed prominently at the main desk, stores thousands of stem cell samples.

 

“We are the only facility in the world that incorporates Western medicine, Oriental medicine and alternative medicine,” said Chaum’s global marketing representative Yuna Lee, who works on Chaum’s medical tourism with various international agencies.

 

Stem cell banking — one of Chaum’s biggest draws — is also the Center’s most controversial marketing vehicle.

 


Every step on the staircase is a different size than the one before it — the idea is to encourage contemplation while walking.

 

“Stem cell treatment is not permitted in most countries, and it is only permitted to some extent in Korea,” said Kyu Sung Rim, president of Chaum. “Reproducing stem cells is not legal here yet, but we are confident that it will soon be legalized.”

 

Acting on the premise of legalization in the near future, Chaum extracts and stores the stem cells of patients, sending them to its research laboratory in Bundang to be analyzed for the best possible treatment of likely future illnesses.

 

“Once it becomes legalized, we will then be able to reproduce stem cells and use them for the best possible treatment,” said Rim.

 

NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens made headlines in the United States when he traveled to Korea for a three-day stem cell treatment for a knee injury at Chaum last September.

 

“Around 40 percent of our patients are from abroad,” says JiHye Han of Chaum’s public relations team. “We have a lot of Arab princes and princesses and VVIP patients from all over the world, including Europe, the United States and especially China and Japan. Last year, around 900 international patients came here for care.”

 

As a result of its significant contributions to boosting Korea’s medical tourism, the Life Center recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Korea Tourism Organization for a joint development project.

 

Apart from stell cell banking, Chaum offers a dizzying array of treatment options that include the most comprehensive medical checkup in the country, sleep therapy in the only sleep capsule machines in Asia, acupuncture and “tea therapy,” as well as doctor-prescribed personalized menus at the facility’s gourmet restaurant Les Trois.

 


Sleep therapy at Chaum. This pod is one of four in Asia — all four are located in Chaum.

 

Not all customers have been favorably impressed.

“It’s rather difficult to navigate because the building wasn’t originally built for its current purpose,” said Chaum member Young-min Seo. “One of my sons had a checkup at Chaum, and while he said it was nice that all the staff came to him instead of having to go to the various checkup points himself, the staff seemed less experienced than those at university hospitals.”

But most of the reviews have been laudatory. It seems that the premise of customized, preventive and futuristic treatment is proving irresistable for many.

“I like the idea of having stem cells stored away for when I’m going to get sick,” said Lee. “It’s the best kind of insurance.”

Chaum, Gangnam-gu Cheongdam-dong 4-1, Seoul, Korea (서울특별시 강남구 청담동 4-1); +82 2 3015 5077;  http://www.chaum.net

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