Regenerative Medicine with Dr. Joy Kong: Rational Wellness Podcast 237
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Dr. Joy Kong discusses Regenerative Medicine with Dr. Ben Weitz.
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Dr. Joy Kong is a UCLA-trained, triple board-certified physician, anti-aging and stem cell specialist, educator, CEO, and founder of the Thea Center for Regenerative Medicine in California. Dr. Kong focuses on the prevention of aging, as well as chronic and degenerative conditions that are difficult to treat. She runs the THEA Center for Regenerative Medicine.
Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss and also athletic performance, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111. Dr. Weitz is also available for video or phone consultations.
Dr. Weitz: Hey, this is Dr. Ben Weitz, host of the Rational Wellness Podcast. I talk to the leading health and nutrition experts and researchers in the field to bring you the latest in cutting edge health information. Subscribe to the Rational Wellness Podcast for weekly updates. To learn more, check out my website, drweitz.com. Thanks for joining me, and let’s jump into the podcast.
Hello, Rational Wellness podcasters, today, we have an interview with Dr. Joy Kong on regenerative medicine. According to Nature Magazine, regenerative medicine is a branch of medicine that develops methods to regrow, repair or replace damaged or disease cells, organs or tissues. Regenerative medicine includes the generation and use of therapeutic stem cells, tissue engineering, and the production of artificial organs.
These stem cells can be harvested from embryos, from bone marrow or fat cells of adults, from the umbilical cord blood from newborns or from the amniotic fluid. Dr. Joy Kong is a UCLA trained, triple board certified physician and anti-aging and stem cell specialist. She’s also the CEO and founder of the THEA Center for regenerative medicine in California. Dr. Kong focuses on the prevention of aging as well as chronic and degenerative conditions that no one else has been able to heal. She believes that complete healing can only come from looking at the whole person, mind, body, and soul. Dr. Kong, thank you so much for joining us today.
Dr. Kong: Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. Perhaps you can start by telling us a little bit about your own personal journey and how you got into this type of work.
Dr. Kong: Yeah. It’s definitely a unique and fun journey. I grew up on a university campus in Beijing, China. It’s a science and technology university. I spent my first 20 years in China. It was kind of, getting a taste of just how important food is, how your health it’s contributed to by many factors. Exercise was definitely emphasized. Then also, I was always impressed with the… I wasn’t impressed until I came to this country, realizing how Western medicine is dominating everything. Because when I was in China, my mom would have a medicine drawer and it would have Chinese medicine, Western medicine, everything is all jumbled together, and she would just ask me, “Okay, what are you dealing with? What’s the problem?” I’ll give her my symptoms, and then she would just reach into the drawer and she would dig out some, either Western medicine tablets or some Eastern medicine, whatever concoction it was. Because it depends on the condition, depending on what you’re dealing with. Sometimes Chinese medicine work better, sometimes Western medicine work better. I grew up with the acceptance for this very inclusive approach to medicine. Then when I came here, of course, I love science and I was going to go get a PhD in neuroscience, because I loved the brain, which was probably why later on, I became a psychiatrist and then did some addiction medicine, because, I think the brain is the final frontier. It’s really fascinating.
The psychiatry discipline, as interesting as it is, it’s really be a dichotomy between psychotherapy and drugs. You are either going to the route of talking to people about their childhood experiences and how they’re dealing with life or you’re going into diagnosing somebody to fit them into DMS-5. Once you put them in a category, that makes everything easy. Once you put someone in the box, then you know exactly what medications used in that box. It’s all about matching the symptoms and the drug. The problem is that you’re omitting a bunch of steps in the middle. Between the symptoms, never mind why you’re having the symptoms, between the symptoms of the drugs, there could be so many opportunities that were missed. The opportunity to check, was there toxicity involved? Was it heavy metal? Was it some organic toxins? If you don’t get rid of toxins, that’s a problem.
If you are not looking at certain hormones like thyroid hormone, male or female hormones, you’re not optimizing the signals your body’s receiving. A simple hormone like thyroid is a master hormone governing so many things and it governs how your mental state is. That was barely checked. The only thing psychiatrists checked is the TSH, which is just not very helpful, because it just shows a very, very little piece of picture and missed majority of people who have thyroid problems.
All these missed opportunities, nutrition. We were not trained in anything that can help prevent or can help optimize a person. We jumped into medication right away. I did psychiatry with the training, altogether, that was 11 years. In the process, I was trying to incorporate Eastern wisdom or a holistic approach to health. I found it very exhausting when no other psychiatrist was trying to do that, and I was the only one who was trying to understand everything about the patient and I was still given half an hour for follow up visits. I come home exhausted and just… I had to do a lot of self-care to just keep up my spirit.
Dr. Weitz: Essentially, you were trying to practice Functional Medicine approach, but within an allopathic model.
Dr. Kong: Right, in the dark and with no assistance, and no language to put it together. When I found the discipline was called anti-aging medicine, which is just an off shoot of functional medicine or integrated medicine, it’s just a different name to the same thing. You’re looking at the body from a diverse, many, many angles and each angle you can address it by very, very detailed, very fine tuned tools, whether nutrition or hormones or detoxification or microbiome, there’s so many ways that you can address it. All of a sudden there’s a language to what we can do to bridge the gap between symptoms and drugs. There’s so many things we can do. By the time you did all these things, probably drugs would not be necessary at all. We missed the entire, I would say, probably 96%, 97% of psychiatry probably practiced that way, which means you missed so much opportunity to optimize a person’s health, and I think that’s a disservice to people.
Dr. Weitz: When you’re talking about the brain, what percentage of patients do you think actually have a brain? No, I’m just kidding.
Dr. Kong: Or how many doctors? Oh my God, where do our brain go? Go catch it. My job is to help more doctors find the part of their brain that actually is open to improvements in their thinking. Because I see so many doctors, probably I’m going to offend a lot of doctors, but probably 95% of doctors, till this day, because I hear from patients of how stuck the doctors’ frame of mind was. That they’re so stuck that they’re not open to see evidence outside. Whatever they were taught in medical school and whatever they learned during conferences, which are all sponsored by drug companies, by the way. Anything beyond that, they are not open to it. If it’s 95%, then where do people go? Where do patients go? We see that every day. I’m sure, you do functional medicine, you’ve done it for a long time, that’s what you see-
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. Here’s a perfect example, I was just talking to a patient who went to see a doctor in Florida at the Cleveland Clinic, and they didn’t run the Cleveland Heart Labs because they have this very narrow, Western focus. Even though they work for the Cleveland Clinic, which has pioneered some of the more detailed, advanced lipid profiles that a lot of functional medicine doctors do, they don’t even do those tests, because they’re too complicated, they’re too long, and they just want to get to the point, here’s your elevated LDL, here’s your stat, et cetera.
Dr. Kong: Oh my God. Yeah. It’s sad. It’s sad that I started telling people, I said, “Us doctors, us physicians have become very efficient killers. We’re the third leading cause of death. So, be careful when you go see a doctor, just remember, it could be as dangerous as cancer or heart disease, just be aware, fire be aware.”
Dr. Weitz: I think it’s great that you see regenerative medicine, stem cells as part of a functional medicine approach to a person’s overall health and prevention of chronic diseases, as well as trying to get to the root causes of these conditions and reverse them, and not just treat symptoms.
Dr. Kong: Yeah. Regenerative medicine, really, that was part of the whole anti-aging medicine, functional medicine, it’s in the framework because it’s really tapping into the body’s own healing capabilities. It’s human cells, and especially when you tap into certain cell types in younger cells, they have tremendous ability to send out signals for your body to heal. Instead of throwing one drug, that’s targeting that one A to B linear relationship, we’re sending you cells, which contains intelligence that can send you hundreds or thousands of these cell made molecules, and that each molecule can affect 100 different mechanisms and actions. All of a sudden, you have this global healing that’s going on. That is really exciting. Of course, it’s exciting on paper, and what excited me more was actually hearing stories of how people were healed. Just because something sounds great, doesn’t make it great. But when you actually see it at work, that’s what’s really inspiring. I started seeing that, which was incontrovertible evidence. Then, I was like, this is just too amazing, and I was learning about the science and looking at the safety, which was incredible safety data, and efficacy. Then I started doing it for my own patients. That’s when it became really fun. When somebody-
Dr. Weitz: Let’s get into the nitty gritty about stem cells. Teach us about stem cells. What are the best types of stem cells to use in therapy?
Dr. Kong: I would say there’s no one stem cell that cures everything. Different types of stem cells in our body, they all have their own functions. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. Our body is very-
Dr. Weitz: Maybe you can define what a stem cell is.
Dr. Kong: A stem cell… All of us started in life as one stem cell. The fertilized egg is one stem cell and that one stem cell has such an incredible potential, it can form any cell in the body. The cell continue to divide and it will retain that kind of potent potential, up to a certain stage. When they use embryonic stem cells, they were actually harvesting the cells at day five to seven of the embryos. Embryo, which is a little ball. In that ball, those cells are highly potent. Any of those else can form pretty much all organs and tissues of the entire body, except for the sperm and egg. That’s the only difference. They can form just about anything. But they will further differentiate. The ball will get a bigger and more convoluted and more complex and then they will become other stem cells. All those cells, that’s derived from them are still stem cells, but they lose certain potentials, they become more specialized stem cells, and they can still form, maybe a particular region or a particular tissue type of the human body. So, they keep dividing. It’s almost like a continuum. There’s no, this is first generation staff of cells, second generation, there’s no. There’s a continuum… It’s 1.5, 1.55, it’s continuing as they lose their potential and they earn their specialty, so they start to specialize.
In our human body, we have all kinds of stem cells in our body. For example, the hematopoietic progenitor cells, which can form all the blood cells in the body. That’s a stem cell. We have mesenchymal stem cells. Some people doesn’t believe is a stem cell, but it’s certainly of incredible potential, and in the Petri dish, you can make them into, especially from umbilical source, you can push them into different directions, including bone, fat, muscle and neurons or liver cells. There’s a diverse potential that they can’t become particular cells. But at certain point, then you become a very specialized cell. You can’t become anything else, but that cell. That’s a progenitor cell that you can sit there and that’s what’s called tissue specific stem cell. For example, in your liver, you have liver stem cells. So, if you liver get damaged, those stem cells who can only become liver cells get activated and they will divide and they will replace the damaged tissue. There are all these different levels of stem cells. When it comes to therapy, what do we use? One stem cell type that’s really popular, probably the most popular is the mesenchymal stem cells. This is a very, very fascinating type of cells, because they are everywhere in our body. Anywhere we have blood circulation, you have these cells.
The way they are is that, think of a gecko, holding on this tube, which is a blood vessel. They’re holding onto it and they’re sensing what’s going through that tube, all the blood and the signals, and they’re also communicating with the neighboring cells. They’re sensing things and they are also figuring out what’s going on locally and they will either secrete certain molecules based on what they sense or if they’re needed, they’re going to actually going to squeeze themselves into the blood vessels. They have this very fluid role that they can, what I call like a conductor of the symphony of regeneration. They have this fluidity. They’re everywhere in our body. The benefit of using this type of cells is first of all, these cells are such type of a master cell. A master in the sense that it’s controlling things. It’s able to sense things and then send out appropriate molecules to make changes. It can send out things into the bloodstream to make overall changes, or it can travel to a specific site and start to secrete different molecules and tell the immune system to bring certain cells to come and clear-
Dr. Weitz: Where do we get these mesenchymal stem cells from?
Dr. Kong: There are definitely people who get it from a person’s own. You hear about bone marrow. Unfortunately, bone marrow has 0.1% to 0.01% of mesenchymal stem cells, and has a low percentage of the hematopoietic stem cells, but it has a lot of immature, early immune cells. The bone marrow transplant is one way to get it, even though the amount is minuscule. A place that has higher percentage is the fat derived stem cells. It sounds counterintuitive, but what’s interesting is they’re not getting it from the fat, they’re getting it from all the blood vessels that are supplying the fat. That’s where the cells are. If you can separate the cells from that tissue, from the blood vessels, that’s where you can get them.
The beauty of these cells is that they work with your immune system. There’s very little potential for rejection. Of course, you don’t have rejection issues with your own cells, but if you are giving transplants, they tend to modulate the immune system, so that immune system is not super amped up. It tends to shift the body from an anti-inflammatory to anti-inflammatory status. Is actually being used for organ transplant. You can transplant an organ, and if you also give the person mesenchymal stem cells, it’s more likely for the organ to survive, instead of being rejected. It has that kind of function. That makes it very, very, very easy to use, because you’re not going to get different kinds of reactions. The problem is… A person will say, well then of course I want to use my own. Unfortunately, as you grow older, you have less and less of them. Just to give you stats, when you were born, every one in 10,000 cells is a mesenchymal stem cell. When you reach your teenage years, it becomes one in 100,000, it’s tenfold less, right? Then when you reach your 40s, is one in 400,000. When you reach your 80s, is one in 2 million. You’re running out of the stem cells and the stem cells you do have in your body are a lot less potent. They’re just not working as well, and they lose some of their intelligence.
Dr. Weitz: We want the stem cells from younger people.
Dr. Kong: I’m sorry, unfortunately that’s the truth. I was trying to figure out whether or not that’s true. That’s when I delved into all this literature and start to just look at what works better? What works better? People are paying a lot of money for these treatments. I need to give them the best. Apparently, no one has really looked at all the research that’s been out there, because I’ve been presenting this information at different conferences and still, very few doctors really understand the differences. When you look at all the research that’s been done, for at least 10 years, comparing these different tissue sources. I actually have the lecture online, it’s called Are all MSCs Created Equal? It’s a 40 minute lecture that goes in great detail. After you watch a lecture, you look at the evidence, none of them was my opinion. All I presented was evidence. Then you can draw your own conclusion. To me, it was very obvious what is a superior source, which is the birth tissue source. We’re not going into the realm of fetal cells or embryonic stem cells, which are not even legal in this country. I think they have their own issues.
Dr. Weitz: It reminds me of clinics overseas that put the blood of young people into older people as a form of anti-aging.
Dr. Kong: Yeah, there are a lot of things floating in the blood. We can get those similar elements from the birth tissue.
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Dr. Weitz: Now, is there rejection issues when you’re using stem cells from somebody else?
Dr. Kong: I wouldn’t call it rejection issues. Depending on what kind of cells you’re using, if you’re using high percentage of mesenchymal stem cells, I have not seen rejection. There are once in a while, I would say maybe one in 200, 300 people, there may be somebody that has a hypersensitivity type of constitution, hyper histamine reaction that they may break out with half the food that you and I can’t eat or half the medications that we can take with no problem. Those are the only people I’m a little bit more cautious about. But the vast majority, I’ve never seen any issue.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. How do stem cells work to heal tissues?
Dr. Kong: The stem cells, if we’re talking about mesenchymal stem cells, I’m just going to stick with mesenchymal stem cells, because that’s what we’re looking at these days, for most research. These mesenchymal stem cells, they are attracted to signals. We talked about how they… I always think the image of salmon swimming upstream, because they’re sensing the density, probably of the signals. So, they’re following the signals. Once they get to the area, then they have all these different actions. It’s really fascinating. First of all, they can send out certain molecules in the vicinity where they can bring in different immune cells. Immune cells, one is that they can clean up the damaged tissue. You need macrophages, you need neutrophil, you need things to get things gobbled up and cleared away, or if there’s infection, kill them off, and you take away what the damage is. Then the cells also has ability to communicate with the local stem cells. It’s not the mesenchymal stem cells themselves, that becomes to replace a tissue. That was misconception, that’s what people thought a while ago. But really the way it does, is that it talks to your local stem cells and tell the local cells, “Hey, wake up. Stop being dormant. Come out and fill up this tissue, replace it with healthy tissue.”
That’s one part of the function. That’s called paracrine effect. So, sending out signals. But has some other really direct effects. For example, has direct antimicrobial effect. It actually S antimicrobial peptides, and then it also has what’s called anti-apoptotic. It actually saves tissue. Let’s say you have some tissue that’s damaged either, can be by heat, by radiation, by whatever, the damage. When tissue is damaged, they actually leak out calcium, leak out all these signals that tells neighboring cells to die. Things are not dying just from being damaged, but also from the signals from the damaged cells. What stem cells can do is to prevent the neighboring cells from dying, so they have a protection kind of a mechanism. Then they also have apoptotic… They can be anti-apoptotic, so preventing programed cell death when necessary, but they can also cause programed cell death when it is old, senescent cells or cancerous, precancer cells, because they can recognize, there’s something wrong with the cells. So, I’m going to tell the cells to die. It also can promote… These mesenchymal stem cells can promote angiogenesis, or promoting blood vessel formation. It doesn’t do you a whole lot of good to have a lot of cells, but with no blood supply. Also, there’s another thing that they do, that’s really fun, they’ve caught that on electro microscopy, what’s called mitochondria transfer. These new young cells actually can transfer their healthy, vibrant mitochondria into the host cells. In a way, injecting some life force into the host. There are a lot of different mechanism of actions. It’s pretty exciting.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. What are some of the mesenchymal cell conditions that stem cells can really benefit?
Dr. Kong: Okay. First of all-
Dr. Weitz: Can they be a viable alternative for patients who say, are in need of a knee or hip or shoulder replacement?
Dr. Kong: Yeah. Let me just do a disclaimer, since the FDA, it’s very much watching out for consumers and I’m watching out for consumers as well. We cannot make any claims because so far, with the one exception of blood disorders that stem cells are indicated for, there’s been no other FDA approved indications. Let’s say somebody has blood disorder, they can give them a bone marrow transplant, or even umbilical cord blood transplant, and that can help replace their bone marrow supply and help regenerate their entire hematopoietic system. That’s good. That I can say, yes, stem cells can treat that. Everything else, I cannot use the word treat. When we talk about conditions, it’s really about the mechanism of why the condition happens and then how stem cells can help assist repair. I have seen that happen over and over and over in my clinic. Of course, I also founded an academy, which is called American Academy of Integrative Cell Therapy. Our mission is to educate healthcare providers on how stem cell therapy can help with different conditions. There’s actually course when doctors take the course, they actually take away over 300 published articles, they’re all categorized by organ systems and disease categories. There are research, very active research into many, many disease categories, showing really encouraging results. That’s what I’m trying to show to doctors so they can help their patients.
Dr. Weitz: Do you have patients who’ve seen you, who had severely degenerative knee who were told they needed a knee replacement, that you treated them with stem cells? Then also, when is it a good idea to use PRP versus stem cells, or when do you use PRP with stem cells?
Dr. Kong: Okay. What you said, you just described my first stem cell patient. My very first stem cell patient, he was 69 at the time, now he’s 74. He had bilateral arthritis, which he went the two orthopedic surgeons who both told him he absolutely needed bilateral knee replacement. He didn’t really want to do that, he wanted to see if stem cells could help him. At the time, I did give him an IV treatment because the outer one third of the cartilage of a knee joint is nourished by the blood supply. The inner two thirds is nourished by the synovial fluid. I wanted to attack from both angles. When I give it through IV, it can help nourish the outer one third of the cartilage, and injecting into the knee joint, that helped provide the stem cells to us right there, because it’s very difficult to get the stem cells from blood, into the joint space. What’s fascinating was that… First of all, this is five years later, he’s walking about four miles every day, his knees are doing fantastic. He doesn’t even think about it very much. What’s really interesting was the next day, he told me, he said, “Hey, I slept through the night. I haven’t slept through the night for decades, because of my shoulder injury.”
When he was late teens, his car rolled over, damaged his shoulder, and it never, I guess, never fully healed. Every time when he turns around, turns in his bed, the sharp pain will wake him up. I never touched his shoulder, I didn’t even know about the problem off his shoulder. I just gave him a simple IV injection, and then one injection into his knee. This is five years later, his shoulder was fixed. I never touched his shoulder. That just shows you the intelligence of the cells that they can find where you need repair. That’s one thing. Then you asked about PRP. The way I do injections-
Dr. Weitz: Hang on one second, let me just ask you about that patient with the knee. Did you go back and do maybe another imaging, maybe another MRI? If you did, would we see that the cartilage was regrown, do you think?
Dr. Kong: I didn’t do it on this patient, but there was another patient, which I did not even inject into the knee, I just gave her IV treatment and she did have a pre-injection MRI, and then post, a few months after. It showed her knee cartilage has regrown, which shocked her orthopedic surgeon who had never seen anything like that, because they didn’t know about stem cells. Of course, you don’t see regrowth of the knee. The body is incredible. If you just give the right signal, it can do amazing things. I want people to feel hopeful, to realize, your body is this incredibly intelligent machine. We can’t even make a single cell. Our human mind can’t even make a cell, let alone this entire body. There’s incredible intelligence that you are walking around with. Anyhow, as far as the PRP… PRP is obtained from a person’s blood. You take the blood and you spin it out. You get some more growth factors from the platelets, because platelets do secrete a lot of growth factors and help promote healing and all that. It is very helpful. I almost never use PRP alone, I can. But it’s like when you have the best tool in the world, why would you use the second rate? Yes, maybe because it’s a lot cheaper. But you get much longer lasting results. For example, erectile dysfunction, a lot of people do PRP, inject PRP into the penis. For people who have done it for a long time, specialty clinics. The feedback I got was PRP injections, the effect may last, two to three months. But when you do stem cells, it lasts at least six months, six to 12 months.
There’s a difference in the potential of the cells, because when the cells can keep secreting these beneficial factors and they actually help repair DNA, which I haven’t mentioned because stem cells will secrete exosomes. It will respond to environment and secrete the correct combination of molecules into the exosomes. Exosomes contain micro RNA. These micro RNA can actually get into cell nucleus and help repair DNA. That’s what causes the long term benefits. I believe that some of the antiaging benefits has a lot to do with that. When you make the DNA younger, when you make it function better, then you are dialing back the clock. The PRP has potential, but it’s shorter lived and it doesn’t nearly have as much potential as the stem cells. But I do like using it because you’re giving extra… I use it with stem cells for all kinds of injections. We can inject into the penis, or any joints and muscle, tendon repairs, or hair, face restoration. I do use PRP in all those cases, because I like the extra growth factors, and the fact that they do nourish the stem cells and help the stem cells work even better. That’s my philosophy on-
Dr. Weitz: For regrowing cartilage in joints, or helping patients with degenerative needs to feel better. Do you recommend specific foods or nutritional supplements to help facilitate that? I’m thinking about things like glucose [inaudible 00:35:13]-
Dr. Kong: Those are great. Those are good.
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. Collagen supplements, SPM, fish oil, et cetera.
Dr. Kong: Absolutely. We do advise our patients with all that, and also, I incorporate peptides as well. There are good peptides that help with muscular skeletal healing, like TB-500.
Dr. Weitz: Which are your favorite peptides?
Dr. Kong: BPC-157 and TB-500 are two of my favorites. Very-
Dr. Weitz: What do you think about the oral BPC-157?
Dr. Kong: I haven’t tried it. It’s supposed to work well, but I don’t… Have you tried it?
Dr. Weitz: Yeah. We’ve been using it. We find it’s very helpful for leaky gut and it does help with some musculoskeletal injuries as well.
Dr. Kong: Yeah, right. Great for gut healing, just overall fantastic anti-aging agent.
Dr. Weitz: Let’s see, let’s talk about degenerative neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Kong: Things like Alzheimer’s, I really believe, whether or not it’s Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or MS, these are all kinds of different names for the same problem. Like autoimmune disease, whether or not you manifest in the gut or in the brain or in your muscles, it’s really the similar pathophysiology. We still don’t know exactly why yet, although we know there’s rampant inflammation. There are a lot of different theories. But I think, no matter what the cause is, the final funnel is inflammation. If you can help reduce the inflammation, you can definitely help reverse some of the processes. But as far as helping with these conditions, I’ve definitely helped people with Alzheimer’s, with MS, with Parkinson’s. Definitely, I’ve seen improvements. Improvements, probably no medication has been able to achieve, but did I get them to be 100% back? No. I wish I did. I did get a person 100% back, that he’s on the brink of death, who had liver cirrhosis, which was really shocking to me, because he was already in hospice. That traditional medicine, there’s no remedy. That’s it.
Dr. Weitz: It’d be interesting to take patients who are going through the Bredesen Protocol, as you probably know, Dr. Dale Bredesen is actually helping to reverse Alzheimer’s in patients. He just published the first study with 25 patients using a full functional medicine approach. It’d be interesting to add stem cells to his protocols.
Dr. Kong: Absolutely. Absolutely. I remember my first dementia patient, she was very, very late stage. When she came to me, she came with her husband, she was singing and she was asking me if she could marry me. She was completely just not… She’s in her 60s, her mind is very far away from her. She also had not been feeding herself for two months, that she might be hungry, but there’s no volition, there’s no ability to just pick up a knife and fork and just eat. What’s interesting was the next day, after the stem cell therapy, about 10 o’clock, she had, again, a plate of food in front of her and she just picked up a knife and fork and just ate. Her husband was looking at her in shock. Then she looked at her husband like, what’s your problem? Why are you staring at me? It was really interesting, and I do believe that’s the acute anti-inflammatory action that her brain pathways has been so clogged up, that the communication was stopped, signals could not get across. Once you calm the inflammation, all of a sudden, you got the brain pathways actually are communicating.
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Dr. Weitz: How do you administer stem cells for a patient with a degenerative neurological condition? Are they injected into the brain or are they just put intravenously?
Dr. Kong: I do it through intravenous. I know there’s some doctors who inject into the brain, which you can do as well, but there’s more, inject into the spinal canal or into the ventricles, which is even more high risk, But even injecting into spinal canal, you’re talking about much higher risk. But one thing I love about doing IV treatment is that, I still believe that all these neurodegenerative conditions, they’re still a systemic issue. They’re just manifesting the brain. When you can repair your body, all of a sudden your brain can function better. This is all one entity. It’s, blood brain barrier, whatever. It is all one continuum. You want to treat everything. That’s my philosophy.
Dr. Weitz: What about stem cells for patients with cardiomyopathy for congestive heart failure?
Dr. Kong: There’s some good research supporting the benefits. Definitely-
Dr. Weitz: I think in those cases, it’s typically injected directly into the heart.
Dr. Kong: Not necessarily. Intravenous is fantastic because, if you think about intravenous administration, the first place to go back to is your heart, and then get to come to the lungs and go back to your heart. If your heart has a lot of need, the cells are going to be attracted to those inflammation, those screaming signals.
Dr. Weitz: How are stem cells beneficial for antiaging?
Dr. Kong: I actually did a presentation at a few conferences, particularly about this subject, because I realized, because I’m interested in this and I want to help people to live longer and more vibrantly, but what are the evidence? I started looking up, what kind of evidence there has been. It’s really fascinating. Yes, it has shown beneficial anti-aging effects in humans, but there’s probably more convincing evidence in animal because you can actually observe lifespan. When they did experiments in mice and rats, it’s pretty consistent, the lifespan extension is about 30%, with regular IV infusions of young stem cells. So, young mesenchymal stem cells. It is really cool. I think one experiment started giving these old mice, young stem cells and these old mice are so old that they’re the human equivalent age of 75 years of age, where half of their peers have died. That’s how they started the treatment point.
They give it to one group, just sham, like a placebo. The other group, they gave them real stem cells. The group that got real stem cells, I think was like monthly infusion, they actually, from the time of the experiment, to the time they died, it was three times as long as the group that got placebo. Not only they live longer, but they’re moving better, they’re fast better, their cognition is better. Then there’s other studies that were actually looking at acetylcholine levels, growth factor levels of both the muscles and the brain, and it was really incredible because when they gave the older animal younger cells, all these measurements have gone back to the younger level. That’s pretty incredible evidence. What you can measure actually went back to younger level or even better than younger. It was really fascinating. You can imagine how it helps with maintaining physical health, the muscle mass, and then your brain health, just from those things they measured.
Dr. Weitz: What about patients with diabetes? Can stem cells potentially cause them to be able to regenerate those pancreatic beta cells?
Dr. Kong: Yeah, absolutely. This is another thing that’s really exciting, because not only type 2 diabetes, it can help reverse, but also type 1 diabetes. We’re seeing of regeneration of beta cells in the pancreas and actually endogenous secretion of insulin.
Dr. Weitz: Do we have cases of patients who were type 1 who are no longer insulin dependent?
Dr. Kong: I don’t have those patients, but certainly people have done studies on patients and published results.
Dr. Weitz: Interesting. Now, what about cancer? First thing, when I think of stem cells and cancer is since stem cells cause cells to grow, you might not want to use them in patients with cancer, because you might cause the cancer cells to grow as well, right?
Dr. Kong: Yeah. That was my original hesitation. I used to not treat patients who had cancer within the last three years. But what’s interesting was, as I delve deeper into the science and the research, what I saw was yes, if you’re using cells from your own body, from your own fat or bone marrow, boy, you’re taking a risk. Because when they put… For example, this one study, when they put this brain tumor cell, very virulent glioblastoma, when they put the brain cells next to the tumor cells, next to the mesenchymal stem cells, that’s extracted from fat, the tumor actually grew. But what’s interesting was that when they put mesenchymal stem cells from the umbilical cord next to the tumor cells, the tumor shrunk. They did the same experiment, putting the cancer cells, transplanted it on the animal, put it on the animal body and then put the mesenchymal stem cells either from the fat or from the umbilical cord next to the cancer cells, the same thing happened. If it’s next to mesenchymal stem cells from the fat, the cancer grew. If it’s next to MSCs from the umbilical cord, the cancer shrunk. We can’t just lump all stem cells together, because when you have young stem cells, they have capabilities that you no longer have when you get older. There’s degeneration. There’s degeneration of life, that’s why we die.
The cells, all the stem cells in your body have lost its capacity, lost its original capacity. It’s not as vital, and that includes the capability to detect cells that shouldn’t be there and have the ability to destroy it. Somehow, as we get older, we lost that ability. I would be very, very, very cautious with somebody that uses their own stem cells. If they have any proclivities for cancer. Of course, the problem with embryonic stem cells is that they can become a tumor themselves. They can just go crazy and wild and start to become all kinds of tissue called teratoma. That is something that doesn’t happen with umbilical cord-derived MSCs. It’s almost like the umbilical cord-derived MSCs are still very vital, very young, but has lost some of this wildness. So, it’s not going crazy anymore.
Dr. Weitz: With a cancer patient, if you were considering doing regenerative therapy, you wouldn’t want to take embryonic stem cells, because they might have too much growth potential. If you take cells from your own body, they may already have an oncogenic potential. So, better to take stem cells from a younger person who’s past the embryonic stage and potentially they may have more anti-cancer fighting properties?
Dr. Kong: Right. The cells from your own body, it’s not so much they have oncogenic potentials, is that they are indiscriminately telling everybody to grow. If you have existing cancers, then these cells are not going to be able to tell the difference, and it’s just going to tell everything to grow, and then that’s going to promote your cancer growth. That’s the part to be very careful with.
Dr. Weitz: Right. What about the cosmetic stuff, like care growth and skin?
Dr. Kong: Yeah, that’s the really fun stuff.
Dr. Weitz: I’ve seen pictures of these vampire facelifts. It’s pretty gross looking.
Dr. Kong: It’s pretty incredible. I have pictures of my patients just plastic-
Dr. Weitz: You take this spiny roller and you make little holes in their face.
Dr. Kong: I inject stem cells into the skin, and then I do micro needling on top, and the results are just incredible. Even with one treatment, drastic, drastic improvements in skin. It’s amazing what these cells can do. Same thing with hair. The hair is going to take a little longer because the hair follicles, the way they come out, every six weeks, they’re not all at once, they’re not active all at once. You can target one group, but then there all these other group are still dormant. So, you have to do it again. It takes about three sessions. But we’re seeing great results. If you’re completely bald, if it’s shiny, I’m sorry, we can’t do it. But if you’re just thinning, it’s like great, I can help you.
Dr. Weitz: Cool. Okay. I think those are the questions that I had prepared. Any final thoughts you want to leave our viewers and listeners?
Dr. Kong: Yeah, sure. I’m all about full health. I really truly believe that one can only achieve a real health and happiness by taking care of yourself physically and mentally, which is understanding why you do the things you do, and what has affected you in the past, and spiritually, all three are very important. That’s probably another reason at clinic, we start doing ketamine treatment. I find it transformative, and I do think spirituality has a lot to do with it. It lets you out of your own little ego and tap into a whole different realm and capabilities. It’s actually really helpful for chronic pain, but it’s great for depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction. I want to help people heal fully. That’s something I’m really excited about, what we’re doing in the clinic. Again, that’s Western medicine, that’s an anesthetic, but it happens to be tremendous in what it can do in promoting brain regeneration. That’s another huge tool.
Dr. Weitz: Ketamine, is that similar to the low dose psilocybin type treatment?
Dr. Kong: It is not low dose, what we do.
Dr. Weitz: Okay.
Dr. Kong: I guess people can do it low dose, but the way we do it is an IV infusion. So, it takes about an hour.
Dr. Weitz: Ketamine, is it a psychedelic?
Dr. Kong: Well, it wasn’t developed as a psychedelic, it was developed as an anesthetic, so you can do surgery on people at much higher dose. But what they realized is that at much, much, much lower dose people have a psychedelic experience, but they also get healed of their depression, and the PTSD. A lot of these things go away at the same time. That’s how it got started. It’s a much, much lower dose than anesthetic dose, an extremely safe… It’s actually one of the safest anesthetics in the world. It is one of the essential medications on WHO’s list. It’s an extraordinary medication, but now we’re using it. Right now is the only FDA approved psychedelic medication.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. That’s great. How can listeners get a hold of you? What’s your clinic information, your website?
Dr. Kong: Our clinic is in the greater Los Angeles area. Right now our clinic website is THEA CRM. So, THEA Center for Regenerative Medicine. You can just look up THEA, T-H-E-A-C-R-M.com. They can also look me up on YouTube. I have a lot of interesting videos on YouTube, just my name, Joy Kong MD, that’s the channel. I go into more about different types of stem cell treatments and just a lot of nitty gritties that people don’t talk about.
Dr. Weitz: Thank you, Joy.
Dr. Kong: You’re so welcome. It’s fun talking about all this, getting the information out.
Dr. Weitz: Absolutely. Thank you for sharing some interesting information.
Dr. Kong: Yeah. Thank you for being willing to learn and join the excitement.
Dr. Weitz: Always learning. That’s one of the great things about doing a podcast.
Dr. Kong: Yes. Okay.
Dr. Weitz: Okay. Thank you.
Dr. Kong: You’re welcome. Take care. Bye-bye.
Dr. Weitz: Thank you for making it all the way through this episode of the Rational Wellness Podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go to Apple Podcasts and give us a five star ratings and review. That way, more people will be able to find this Rational Wellness Podcast when they’re searching for health podcasts. I wanted to let everybody know that I do now have a few openings for new nutritional consultations for patients at my Santa Monica, Weitz Sports Chiropractic and Nutrition Clinic. If you’re interested, please call my office 310-395-3111 and sign up for one of the few remaining slots for a comprehensive nutritional consultation with Dr. Ben Weitz. Thank you and see you next week.
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