Surprisingly, the best youth is in the chump.

Pictured: Stem cells.  Surprisingly, the best youth is in the chump.

Injecting animal cells into humans for therapeutic reasons has a long history. The most infamous was John Brinkley who injected goat testicles into 16,000 men in the 1920s and 30s to treat impotence. Harriet wrote a review of Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, which covers the topic. I wonder who would get the title today. Chopra…Gesundheit.

I had thought this therapy was consigned to the sharps container of history. Of course not. No SCAM ever fades away.

As part of my ID reading I came across the headline “Q Fever Outbreak Among Travelers to Germany Who Received Live Cell Therapy — United States and Canada, 2014.”

It surpasses the classic “Notes from the Field: Campylobacter jejuni Infections Associated with Sheep Castration — Wyoming, 2011” for foolishness, where:

…men reported having used their teeth to castrate some of the lambs.

Really. A most curious way to acquire Campylobacter. But at least the castrators were doing practical, albeit eeewwwwwwww, work. And there is an alternative to teeth, including the Burdizzo Emasculatone, which is:

an elegant little tool especially suited to crushing the spermatic cords of a variety of male mammals. It really helps to make a neat job of what would otherwise be an unpleasantly messy endeavor, and the Burdizzo achieves the goal of bloodless castration admirably.

But I digress and leave to the commenters to make completely inappropriate remarks. Only the SCAM universe can be odder than infectious diseases.

Q fever I know well. The big risk for Q fever is exposure to sheep, especially parturient sheep. And their exposure?

The five New York patients had traveled in a group of 10–15 persons to the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany to receive intramuscular injections of fetal sheep cells from a German physician.

These patients really went out of their way to get an infectious disease.

But what is live cell therapy?

Live cell therapy

It originated in the 1930s and consists of giving patients animal embryos, fetuses or organs either orally or by injection. It is a form of sympathetic magic where the animal cells somehow go to the involved human organ to strengthen them.

Germany, being old school, is relying of sheep embryos for their live cell therapy. However, those at the forefront of therapy use shark embryonic cells, which:

are ground up, maintained in a saline solution and deep- frozen.* The solution is first tested thoroughly for sterility before being injected intramuscularly into the patient.

Why shark?

However, with the results of recent research, shark embryo cells seem to be vastly superior to sheep embryo cells, in particular the blue shark (Cacharius glaucus) found only in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. (It is important to note that sharks are hunted and killed daily, and the embryonic sac is normally thrown away as worthless.)

The shark has a perfect immune system in that it is free from cancer and has no contagious diseases. It has so far proven impossible to produce cancer cells in the blue shark and this animal also will never accept the HIV virus, for example. Additionally the blue (and other) sharks have circulating antibodies as immunoglobulin already circulating in their blood. Equally important, the cells used in Live Cell Therapy should be from a specie which has a comparable pregnancy time to the human, such as the blue shark.

That old myth about sharks not getting cancer.

“Sharks get cancer,” said Shiffman, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Even if they didn’t get cancer, eating shark products won’t cure cancer any more than me eating Michael Jordan would make me better at basketball.”

I wonder how a shark could get HIV? Sharing needles? Unprotected shark on shark sex? Eating an HIV infected human? To think that sharks are doing all these risk free. Perhaps at the same time. Evidently the shark embryo injector was unaware of how species-specific most infections are.

Now that stem cells are all the rage, live cell therapy is called a form of stem cell therapy, and used for cancer therapy as well as anti-aging.

Injecting cells of other animals into yourself is not the safest thing to do. It has been associated with:

Serious adverse events … including anaphylaxis, vasculitis, encephalitis, polyradiculitis, clostridial infections, paresis, and death.

And now Q fever. Not a surprise as one sheep fetus user notes:

For safety reasons, there are no chemical or pharmacological substances added while obtaining and processing the organ tissue. Neither is any denaturing sterilization of the cell material carried out. Sterility is achieved through precautionary measures.

Safety. I use that word a tad differently. As an ID doctor that description really gives me the heebie jeebies.

In the US giving injections of animals cells, xenotransplantation (NOT a Scientology treatment), requires FDA approval and oversight, which they have never provided. Not so in Germany, where:

an attempt to ban fresh cell therapy in 1997 was later determined to be null and void because the federal law does not cover drugs manufactured by doctors only for use in their own patients.

And of course stem cell therapy is available in Mexico.

There is zero reason to think Live Cell therapy would have any benefit and, given the injection of foreign proteins and curious infection quality control, every reason to think it would be dangerous. Live cell therapy taken orally? We call that dinner.

As one PubMed article called it, Cell therapy: a cruel and dangerous deception.

Swamp Thing

Don’t want animal embryos and stem cells? I ran across an ND site that offers Plant Stem Cell remedies, also called gemmotherapy. It uses:

remedies made principally from the embryonic tissue of various trees and shrubs (the buds and emerging shoots), but also from the reproductive parts (the seeds and catkins) and from newly grown tissue (the rootlets and the cortex of rootlets). In two instances, remedies are also made from the sap. [Insert your own joke here.]

I guess plants never accept the HIV virus either, making them a good candidate for therapy. I remember my college days, dorm mates would complain about the stems in their herbals, but apparently it was a good thing.

Gemmotherapy assumes people are plants and human cells will respond to a variety plant growth factors. It:

is a modern method of draining the organism. It uses plant bud extract and other embryonic plant tissues to open cellular detoxification pathways. It employs buds, inner bark, rootlets, or very young shoots of plants from various woodland trees and shrubs. They are harvested in the spring, throughout the period of cellular division and plant growth. During this stage they contain the highest concentration of active growth factor hormones, auxins, and gibberllins. These hormonal agents contain valuable informative matter required for the drainage of various organs and tissues at the cellular level.

I do not think it is gibberllins, but gibberish. You read the web sites that promote this therapy and you recognize nouns and verbs and other constructions of English grammar, but there is no content.

Why would humans benefit from gibberllins, which are involved in:

stem elongation, germination, dormancy, flowering, sex expression, enzyme induction, and leaf and fruit senescence.

Unless you thought it was a Viagra substitute.

This therapy is often offered by homeopaths, and Borion manufactures some of the products. The products can be found to contain 80% alcohol, so time to par-tay.

And they are not only for detoxification, the products are also used for a variety of diseases. One manufacturer states:

Subsequent research and clinical experience has confirmed its effectiveness in drainage protocols and also its applicability to many common conditions.

Although I found exactly one non-clinical trial on PubMed, yet another SCAM Island of Dr Moreau (Dr Moreau is evidently an ND) combining EAV (Electro-Acupuncture According to Dr. Voll) and gemmotherapy. So much for research.

The plant products are soaked in alcohol then shaken and diluted to the:

fist decimal potency

Ouch. I think this homeopath meant first decimal potency, which is merely a 1/10 dilution. So there could be actual active plant molecules in the products, at least those that are not denatured by 50:50 alcohol:glycerine, which would be most proteins.

But why the fist decimal potency? Because at least according to one homeopath:

It is prescribed in the fist decimal potency for maximum effect.

And an ND notes :

Many gemmotherapy remedies are being used in the United States in a 1 DH dilution which means the remedies have been diluted and the dosage, therefore has to be significantly larger to gain the same effect.

Wow. The LEAST dilution is the most potent and a more dilute quasi-homeopathic product is less effective. No foolish consistency here.

There is no reason to suspect that the gemmotherapy as practiced would have any benefit for any of the diseases for which it is prescribed, although as with all botanicals, you never know, especially at a 1:10 dilution, if there may occasionally be an active molecule in the product. Even a blind homeopath gets an acorn embryo once in a while. As far as promoting an illusory detoxification, well, that is in the realm of fiction.

Have a good post-Thanksgiving and enjoy the best form of gemmotherapy with your left over Terducken: roasted germinated barley, with hops, yeast, and water.

Posted by Mark Crislip

Mark Crislip, MD has been a practicing Infectious Disease specialist in Portland, Oregon, since 1990. He is a founder and  the President of the Society for Science-Based Medicine where he blogs under the name sbmsdictator. He has been voted a US News and World Report best US doctor, best ID doctor in Portland Magazine multiple times, has multiple teaching awards and, most importantly,  the ‘Attending Most Likely To Tell It Like It Is’ by the medical residents at his hospital. His growing multi-media empire can be found at edgydoc.com.