Stem Cells China

Reprinted from PN March 2009

Research programs in China and other countries are working to develop safe and effective approaches to restoring function.

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In my search for function-restoring therapies for spinal-cord injury or dysfunction (SCI/D), I've visited numerous cell-transplantation programs emerging throughout the world. As a continuation of these efforts, I recently traveled to China to check out Beike Biotechnology's stem-cell program. An article in the UK's Times newspaper (March 9, 2008) selected Beike (pronounced Bay-Ka) as a runner-up company on its list of the "Top 10 Chinese firms that will challenge the west."

Andrew holds his young daughter Ella, who is receiving treatments for cerebral palsy.

Beike was founded in 2005 with funding from Beijing University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Shenzhen City (near Hong Kong) and nurtured with Chinese government grants. The company has established collaborations with 60+ scientists at leading Chinese universities. Building upon a base of research starting a decade ago, Beike-affiliated doctors treated their first patient in 2001 and in several years had treated hundreds with a variety of disorders. As confidence grew, they established Beike to treat patients with stem cells on a commercial scale.

Since then, they have treated around 3,900 patients (approximately 800 of whom came from 35 other countries) at about 30 clinics in China and one in Thailand. More than a third of the patients had SCD, including SCI (1,176), multiple sclerosis (103), and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)—also known as Lou Gehrig's disease—(194); 77 had traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Technically, however, Beike does not treat patients. Through their 18 laboratories located throughout China, the company provides stem cells to collaborating hospitals. The hospitals have been granted the authority from the China Ministry of Health to treat patients in Beike-established clinics.

Although many Chinese hospitals provide stem-cell therapy, Beike is the country's largest stem-cell source. Overall, stem-cell therapy is much more accepted in China. For example, it's not uncommon for more-connected individuals to periodically "shoot up" with stem cells for rejuvenation sake.

To make the therapy more internationally accessible, Beike will establish laboratories and treatment centers in India, Europe, the Middle East, and Panama or Mexico.

Read more about the promising activities in other countries that look to restoring function after SCI.


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