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Dr. Kevin Bethel clears up misconceptions about stem cells
By Yasmin Popescu - Media Unlimited
Aug 14, 2013 - 11:31:07 PM

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Freeport, Grand Bahama - The Bahamas may have missed the boat on being the first country with a stem cell research center. One was proposed for Grand Bahama but due to lack of proper legislation has delayed.

Dr. Kevin Bethel of Freeport Family Wellness Center, made this statement as he addressed the Rotary Club of Grand Bahama Sunrise on Wednesday morning at Geneva’s Restaurant.

He stated that at the outset that there has been some misconceptions about stem cells which he said for the most part was unfounded.

“Because,” he continued, “we have to start with the definition – what is stem cell? We are not talking about something that is produced from outer space or high science fiction thing or anything they have been talking about. All of us have stem cells in our body.

“Stem cells are biologically active cells in the body that have the ability to transform into any cell line in the body. So there are any types of stem cells. The basic definition of stem cell is a cell that has the ability to turn itself into any type of cell.”

Dr. Bethel said that whenever someone has an injury, stem cells can be taken from the person to regrow and provide self-population for the repair.

“So for something as simple as a cut or burn on the skin, we have stem cells in our skin, and in the fat layers under our skin, that can transform into the various different types of cells that are necessary for our skin to grow back. It’s a miracle when you see things like that.”

While admitting that at first the stem cell research began using placentas, Dr. Bethel said that at this present time, stem cells are taken from the person who needs it and grown.

He noted that there are two centers in the United States that are presently serving the world in growing the stem cells taking from the patients for their own grafting.

The need of transplants from family members or friends is not needed as much as before he said, as they move into this new technology.

“We have been using stem cells for a long time so this is nothing new” said Dr. Bethel. “What is new is that we now have the ability to harvest stem cells from our own bodies and isolate them …. That is current ‘hallabaloo’ is all about in The Bahamas because that was one of the first applications of taking stem cells from a person, harvesting from any different places on the persons’ body… and what we can do with those stem cells is we can take them, isolate and grow them and give them right back to the same person.”

Here he noted that investors previously talked about creating such a facility here in Grand Bahama for the growth adding that while such facilities in the US were available and licensable to the use the stem cell once expanded, had not been approved in all countries of the world.

Dr. Bethel said that one of the first approved uses of this technology in Europe, Asia, Israel was to use them to grow new heart cells.

“So if someone is having a heart attack, at the same that they are going to do a CAT they can also inject the same technology, just inject those stem cells that they have harvested from the same patient into the heart muscle and it would regenerate new healthy, vibrant heart muscles. It is regenerative medicine.”

The doctor said there is already an international organization for stem cell research and laboratories and he has been in touch with them for many years. He added that because of the referrals, some of the players on the field in The Bahamas right now are interested in doing stem cell facilities and research.

“Of course they are looking for an area that they can set up and take advantage of the medical tourism model that has become easily accessible for North America, where the procedures are not yet offered and they can have some of these procedures that have already been proven in other countries” said Dr. Bethel. “The use of stem cells to regenerate heart tissue is already approved and in use and the science is all worked out for how to do this and it’s still developing.”

He said that The Bahamas had a golden opportunity when we had a lot of people from Europe, and other areas that had the top technology interested in coming here and setting up, particularly in Freeport because of the room to expand.

He added that they were looking at an industry that can grow - to the point where we would not even know the impact they would have on the island. He said it would mean filling hotels, and having a facility as big as a hotel, who would stay for about three or more weeks to have the stem cells harvested and grown.

Dr. Bethel said however that we had the opportunity and we had someone who was committing to build the facility, but the project was put on hold because the government did not have any regulations in the medical act that spoke to stem cells. So he said we needed to modernize our medical act which was done recently.

He said he felt the wisest thing to do was to allow the group to proceed and finish the facility in the year, plus that they had to put their project on hold and now that the legislation has been approved they could have just opened the door.

“We are not there now” he stated. “We have another year of construction yet to go to finish, if they continue to do the project. So the wise thing would have been to just say, ‘Go ahead. The construction permit was issued by the Port Authority. Finish the project and the final permission to treat patients is forthcoming. We are in the process of finalizing the regulations’.

The doctor revealed that The Bahamas used the Canadian guidelines that they adapted to The Bahamas for its legislation.

He said he hopes that the investors do decide to continue with the project which would have huge potential for this island.



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