50. SCIENCE of the Bone Marrow, Stem Cell Transplant - For my Grandkids, Mostly
Уче́нье свет, а неуче́нье тьма.
Knowledge is power.
Literal: Studying is light; not studying is darkness.
I think complicated things are mysteries we solve more easily with illustrations, particularly those of us who are not formally educated for many years in the sciences. So my opener is to let you know that I am NOT a medical professional, I am a relatively smart person who researches like mad, and tries hard to build a structure of understanding about a thing before I will take it on. I want to know what this is going to look like - this HSCT. I spent 3 years researching my CIDP, autoimmune illness, and just about every possible way to address a path to healing it. HSCT is that path.
I have the smartest grandkids (and kids) - Oh sure, you do, too. And my older ones are just about to get into science classes (oldest is nearly13) that will capture their attention. I hope that, knowing their Gram went through HSCT and built a whole new immune system turned out to be a life-saving thing, doable, done! And to see a little more closely what all that meant inside.
Any of you who want to tag along, you're welcome. Know, again, I am not a medical professional nor science professional. BUT I did watch every episode of "Mr Wizard" as a kid and always found science to be vastly fascinating and an ART FORM all on its own. Still do!
NOTE: So, allow me to begin blathering as succinctly as possible. If this entry helps those of you who are following because you're working your way toward HSCT, too, I will be all the more rewarded for my lesson planning time. And happy if it helps you help your family understand the simple elegance of the workings of the human body. I am not giving medical instruction, and so anything you scientists or Dr.s see that I've misread or gotten skiwampus, please let me know to correct. I never want to put any bad information out.
Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself. Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy was right, in his time. But when something goes awry within our machine for living, we can't just let it go without intervention - we must heal!
Okay, here we go:
HSCT - Autologous Stem Cell Transplant, (Using our own stem cells for "Bone Marrow Transplant"
The human body runs smoothly (most times) without us even thinking of how awesomely we have learned to move it, grow it, make it be our vehicle. The surfer only thinks about his stance and balance (not really even having to form a thought - so seamlessly does the body do its true magic). You stand to walk and your feet take infinite measure of feedback from nerves and instantly adjust so you don't just fall over. Your eyes make a zillion adjustments every time you move them across your world, giving you the view that leaves in the information you most need based on the moment. Maybe you're afraid - it will pick out errant modulations such as a stranger walking too close. Or on a normal basis, will adjust the perfect clarity so you can read this text. We are AWESOME machines!
We are systems within systems, all interdependent, billions of years in the evolutionary making. (Sorry, I do not espouse the Creationist view of 6000 years - If I lose some of you here, my apologies - that's another person's blog, not this one).
Без муки нет науки.
Adversity is a good teacher.
Literal: Without torture no science.
But some times there are events, genetic or accidental, or caused by our environment (which in the past very short 150 years or so has introduced vast amounts of fossil fuel chemicals and now all the GMO and agricultural chemicals that our evolution-based human bodies have not had time enough to learn how to deal with). And hence, an autoimmune epidemic forms that we are seeing in our time, and about which we must now rush a bit to find help for our human body. The immune system is overwhelmed by all the 'stuff' that is foreign to it. It wants to protect its own body (us), and yet it can't yet fully read what the hell is going on or who is whom. We also know that these chemicals are actually atlering base DNA at the cell formation level in some parts of the blood most associated with immune response, and perhaps some vulnerability to autoimmune is genetic to begin with - the great genetic lottery. So I will leave you this much of the why/how things hit the wall for those of us who suffer from the acute or chronic onslaught of an immune system that is stuck in high gear, and attacking our own body systems in error. That is what happens in autoimmune illnesses and diseases.
It might be your nervous system, or your digestive system, or others. Your immune system is trying so hard to make your body healthy, as it's done when you had the flu or a virus, but it can't kill off parts of YOU without trouble. And its flying without your normal brain/body/endocrine controls that can guide it to its rightful target - all the weird non-human chemicals we're loading in in our natural lifestyles in our modern world.
We have to fix it! This is the hard part. But here is how things are working inside, and where our brilliant scientists and cellular biologists and BEST research medical teams are working - to get answers to heal people. And HSCT is the one best way to date, found to help autoimmune systems that have gone haywire. To eradicate the damaged system, replace it with a self-grown brand new one that can work correctly and get our body back on track.
Isn't that a magical thought! WE can heal us!
Okay, I admit this is a strange place to begin. But it shows you cut larger bones from a cow, showing the hard outer bone and the soft mushy center (bone marrow) that nature built within.
That bone marrow is our fabulous factory for building blood cells. Oh, and people being people, many love to cook bones and eat the rich bone marrow, as you see tantalizing as possible in image to right. But we are not eating today, we are just learning about bone marrow, our blood cell production and how the immune system depends on that bone marrow factory working as evolution (and we) intended it to.
The body is built up of many systems, layers. And each is so perfectly integrated to the other so that they work in unison, almost like the perfect hummmmm of the universe. It is there, and we don't even notice it. We are free to use our bodies and senses to do everything without thinking of how it's all happening. You run, need to jump a creek and your body does all the calculation, all the energy shift, all the nerve-to-muscle message and even the calculus that lands you on the perfect balance position of the rock. You are so magical - you do all that without even a thought.
Unless something is wrong in your perfect body system and messages go astray
For me, and too many others, the thing that has gone astray seems to be linked to a couple of very important messengers that are blood cells. Our circulatory system carries all nutrients, hormones, into bits and building blocks to our cells - ALL of them.
The human circulatory system does a massive job, usually very well, and for the most part without any intervention necessary. What we see is a little red stuff when we get cut, and that is about the sum total of 90% of our necessary human knowledge base as long as all is going well.
Your blood has certain cells in that red stuff whose job it is to instantly congregate in adequate number to protect you from infection, others to pile up and stop the bleeding (form a scab) and still others to bring proteins to mend the opening the cut has caused. We only need a bandaid, maybe a few stitches, a little time, and we're good to go.
But when the mechanism that makes those important cells gets damaged at its manufacturing base, then we have some serious serious problems that only can be changed by much larger intervention.
An immune system that has been damaged at the core of its manufacturing base is what I had. And it is what, under the applied diagnostic name of Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP for short) is why my immune system started to think my nerve linings were foreign, and why it went into high alert offense to kill off what it mistakenly decided was not supposed to be part of my healthy body.
Damaged as the cells were, the could not see clearly that what they were attacking was necessary and rightfully me, but they wanted desperately to fight hard to win me back to health.
So, like when you get the flu or pneumonia, and your body's immune system is working at top speed to heal you, autoimmune problems make your body use all that same extra energy trying to heal what is wrong, and you feel just as tired all the time as when you have the flu. People with autoimmune diseases feel that tired all the time.
It is part of the most insidious way an autoimmune illness takes away a person's active full life. And there is no way to stop it effectively. This is why people seem so tired all the time when ill, and why they can't work their jobs, or always be able to do things even with the families they love. Energy is misused - taken to other tasks. Some call it 'fatigue', but its constant nature is truly a disability that can't be seen from the outside. You look at me and I look the same, but my energy is cut by half. I can't do all the same things. I have to rest more. Those who have autoimmune illness are not faking it!
But I digress a little - let me drag myself back to the blood cells
In our 'red' blood we have a choir of blood cells, each doing their own job keeping our body functioning without us even thinking about it. You see above an illustration of many of those, and at the very top, you see an illustration of a stem cell - the very first-formed blood cell which has the ability to become any of the many cells you see below, depending on what role and number of each the body need. THIS STEM CELL (shown above at top of graphic) is magical in its ability to become any blood cell you need. WOW, huh! And that stem cell is what is being made within the marrow of your bones. Is that AWESOME or what?
Here is a cross-cut slide that shows you more of what the bone marrow blood production really looks like, but I kind of like the illustrated one above it because it helps me to hold in my mind the view of a variation of many different and 'purposed' blood cells. On a slide, they all look too much alike for someone like me who isn't a scientist.
A doctor who studies and works his entire life with the blood system is called a Hematologist
I have a most awesome Hematologist helping me replace (reboot) my ruined immune system, and he is, to me, a miracle worker. His name is Dr. Denis Fedorenko, and our family will forever be most grateful to him and his team in Moscow, Russia for re-making my immune system.
Made in our bone marrow, the mature blood cells then must do their work within our circulatory system. Our inner river of life. An amazing trip, to the lungs to pick up oxygen, the veins look blue, and then, filled with oxygen, the blood is rich and red.
And the 60,000 miles of tubing that makes up our normal adult circulatory system, pumped by the heart, runs at approximately 102 miles per hour. WE are fast! All the time. Even when we are sleeping. Awesome, isn't it.
When we look at an illustration (left) of a circulatory system, we see almost nothing at all of what it truly is. At the right, a human circulatory system completely removed from the body tissues shows you that it is immense. And even this model misses many of the tiny capillaries, so it's even more densely populating your body than you can see here.
Every cell in our body is fed by our circulatory system, and that means a pipeline that is HUGE, at roughly 100 trillion cells fed and informed and groomed each day by your hard working blood cells. AWESOME, no?
Не за то во́лка бьют, что сер, а за то, что овцу́ съел.
Love the sinner, but hate the sin.
Literal: The wolf is beaten not for being grey, but for having eaten a sheep.
For me with autoimmune malfunction (CIDP) - It's only a little part of my body that was harming me. Love the rest of you and don't feel inferior or bad that there is one part that needs to be changed. It's not your fault. You did not 'sin' and deserve it. It is not because you didn't do something right earlier n your life, or because someone didn't do enough caring for you when you were small. You cannot pray it away. THIS TAKES HSCT! We just need to heal it. How action oriented can we possibly be here and get this done sooner rather than later?
Из пе́сни сло́ва не вы́кинешь.
Literal: you cannot throw a word out of a song.
In this case, we must replace the word from our body's song. And repair the lyric of healthy lives;
And in the illustration above, you can see I put a yellow highlight around 2 up in the right upper portion. THESE are the blood cells who have had DNA damage (in my case) and who, though they love me, can't figure out they are not supposed to be killing me off bit by bit. They are the cells that needed to be killed off, and new stem cells put back to rebuild that part of my blood's cell production so my immune system will stop the truly amazing (but errant) attack it's been working on for over 3 years (my CIDP). The same autoimmune disfunction that chose to work on my nerves' myelin sheath might attack another system of the body, and here you can see some of the ways one broken autoimmune system can find what it thinks (wrongly) to be an invader, creating other manifestations of disease that harm other entire parts of the body. But underlying each of these is the broken autoimmune system. THAT IS THE PART THAT MUST BE REPAIRED/REPLACED. To treat only the symptoms of the underlying disease, one body system at a time, is never going to work, and it cost lots of money and only makes people delay true healing, and makes some pretty evil companies so rich in the process, they don't ever want to see people get healed with HSCT. They are so blinded by greed, they'd rather go on for years doing 'maintenance' meds. It will not work - you only get sicker and less viable for HSCT. But that is another topic, another day.
In order to kill the factory making those ruined cells, a person must use strong chemo (chemicals) that will actually kill the type of cells, including some others, that are fast growing. One reason why my hair will fall out is that hair is also fast growing, so the chemo process hits it, fingernails, skin, stomach lining - other parts of the body that are similar in formation science.
Some day I think they will be able to go in only for the tinier target and the other organs and tissues will not suffer any undue assault from chemo, but right now, they can't, and so it is a very serious procedure to do. The doctors do many many things to protect everything else during chemo, though, so we have as few acts of collateral damage as is humanly possible. And to make the person having HSCT more comfortable throughout the process, make sure they do not cause future problems from the chemo step.
People think all 'chemo' treatments are alike, but they are not. There are many ways to direct chemo intervention to stop tumors, cancer, etc, and they are not just like what I have had done. Some make people very very sick. Others are less harsh. The chemo used in my HSCT is this one:
There are many kinds of 'chemo' treatments. Not just one. Side-effects and outcomes depend on the particular disease one is being treated for, and HSCT has been performed for autoimmune cancers like Lymphoma or Leukemia for more than 35 years in the USA, routinely. It is not brand new science. It works. It was found in some early years that cancer patients who also had MS or Rheumatoid Arthritis, or other illnesses also had amazing recovery from those problems, once having gone through HSCT. So discovery: HSCT is perfect for autoimmune illness.
And why it is taking FDA 20+ years to admit it and allow it is a HUGE question. So for that one, my mind follows the money trail. And I learned that we are not being cured with HSCT because the Big Pharmaceutical industries just make an un-Godly amount of money just treating our surface symptoms.
Autoimmune disease in growing like wildfire in the USA - and the money being made maintaining their illnesses is beyond comprehension - beat out only by the inability to comprehend why our USA Healthcare system is so broken that the Oligarchy with the money is farming ill people for more, and letting people decline and die, live invalid and diminished lives so they can be even more rich and powerful. I know if we work together, we can help others find their health again, perhaps through HSCT.
Бери́сь дру́жно, не бу́дет гру́зно.
Many hands make light work
Literal: Take hold of it together, it won't feel heavy.
Something has gone so wrong here. I think we need to use strong chemo on the Oligarchy, loosen its stranglehold on FDA and corrupt influence on our legislators, and let Americans be healed using HSCT at home, in all hospitals, at a far lower cost and FAR higher cure/success rate than what is being spent to only maintain illness. Don't you?
Как ау́кнется -- так и откли́кнется.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
Literal: How echo is prompted, so it will bounce back.
Let's work on making THAT happen - we can do it. We're smart, and we're many!
(sorry kids, Gram's back for the science)
When the broken immune system attacks various parts of our bodies, we have 'disease' like MS, CIDP, Systemic Lupus, Crohn's, Diabetes I, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's, many others - even one called Stiff Person Syndrome, where the body just sticks into fixed position sometimes and will not move, but is excruciatingly painful while it is contorted.
When your immune system is attacking any of these body systems, it is also likely to attack some other one, so people who have autoimmune disfunction very often will have more than one autoimmune problem going on. I had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis before CIDP and also a strange autoimmune skin attack that took me through about 4 different MD lines before we figured out it was autoimmune in nature. (the only thing I have ever shown allergy to is the non-allergenic tape the Drs use).
TO HSCT-MINDED READERS: To me, it makes no sense to have 5 or 6 different doctors, each giving me meds for one symptom, when in fact all the symptomatic ailments have the underlying cause of my broken DNA in my factory in my bone marrow, and so common sense made me look much closer. I hope my years of trying to figure this out will shorten someone else's because we really can't all do this one sick person at a time - plus who has energy for it when we have only half our normal energy, right?
But as you see from this graphic, after first taking time and 'neupogen' to overstimulate our bone marrow to make many many extra stem cells, those new stem cells are "harvested" We can remove our own tiny blood stem cells, freeze them carefully (cryonics) while we do the chemo 'ablation' of the immune system's faulty factory, and then (all timed perfectly) once beyond the chemo step where we destroy the damaged DNA factory, we can begin to build the immune system with healthy new stem cells.
Then the fresh stem cells are carefully unfrozen and infused right back into our blood stream and they find their way to the bone marrow so they can mature. They are put back into our body and set about their work building a whole new undamaged factory to produce the same cells we needed, but which will now work correctly. Amazing, huh!
Pretty uncomplicated, but it takes great care and precision and science behind it to put it together perfectly, so the body has not lost a word in the lyric of our healthy autoimmune workings. This is how an autologous stem cell transplant looks, very simply diagrammed:
The blood is the lyrical song of the body's health. And you cannot remove a word from the human body's humming perfect song without totally changing it. So we need that same word put back in, too. I can almost hear the proper hum of the universe again, right her in my new stem cell transplanted body. Working just as it should again.
And there you have it - a stem cell transplant from our own stem cells. Amazing, isn't it!
All sorts of things about what is healthy or not healthy in our bodies shows up in a test of our blood. Here is a random illustration to show you a tiny portion of what can be learned just from a blood test or two (or many).
All of that going on within us in our circulatory system, the blood that fills us and takes all the messages and nutrients and hormonal and chemical commands to the cells - it can do it well again. And it tells us how things are going in our bodies, all the time:
We are amazing - our human bodies, our minds! Imagine what we can learn to do.
And just in the last 24 hours, after my HSCT process, my body has produced a whopping 3.3million healthy leukocytes, which means my Autologous Stem Cell Transplant is working perfectly. I have, in this month in Moscow, made a miracle happen (well, become a miracle). I have fixed my autoimmune system at the stem cell level. I no longer have CIDP or any autoimmune illness. I have the most beautiful new immune system - oh how I wish I could show it to you. I'm certain it is just stunningly fine.
But when I get home, you won't see anything much different about me. I will not have my hair on my head. But it will grow back in in a few months. That will be the thing you will see, but all of this other totally AWESOME stuff has gone on inside my amazing body. How cool is that!
I'm now just a week or so from flying home to my family, grandkids, friends - and everything worked so perfectly and smoothly, I am in AWE of the entire HSCT process.
And I am in total dismay at the fact the FDA (on leash of people who want more money, but don't care about cure or health at all) is blocking this procedure for the millions of people who need it now. THAT is a huge failing. We have to all work on changing that as fast as possible so more people like me can have full healthy lives and enjoy more of the time they have with family, like my beautiful cherished brilliant grandkids. Maybe one of you will become a hematologist one day. But if not, I know you will understand better what the heck Gram was doing in Russia all this time