In currently unpublished research, TriStem founder Ilham Abuljadayel says that by adapting standard culturing methods, she has managed to turn white blood cells into heart, nerve, bone, cartilage, smooth muscle, liver and pancreatic cells. If true, this is a stunning achievement that could lead to diverse treatments ranging from a cure to diabetes to liver regeneration to heart attack recovery to healing spinal cord injury.
The key to TriStem’s “transgeneration” technique is a special antibody manufactured by DakoCytomation of Denmark that is normally used to detect abnormal brain cells. A decade ago Abuljadayel tested this antibody as a possible treatment for leukemia. Instead of killing leukemia-diseased white blood cells, the drug caused them to flourish – and undergo spectacular alterations Abuljadayel dubbed “retrodifferentiation” and promptly patented. She’s been developing the technique ever since. McCaffrey encourages sceptics to try the procedure themselves before condemning it. “I don’t think there’s voodoo involved, but until a number of people do it, other scientists have every right to be cautious,” he says.
Growing trust in TriStem’s claims is quickening the pace of its progress. Earlier this month the company received approval from an unnamed government to begin human trials of the blood-to-implanted-bone-marrow process. Because of the hoopla surrounding the effort, this trial is being held in secret in the unidentified host country. A dozen patients with aplastic anemia (severe bone marrow deficiencies) are to be treated in the trial. “Within a week [of implantation], we should find if the [Tristem] cells have taken,” Abuljadayel says. Improvements in the patients’ condition should be immediately noticeable, and results are anticipated to be announced in March. Stay tuned.