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Stem cell sports therapies claim to offer those who take them the opportunity to recover faster by using stem cells to rebuild damaged tissues. But what are the facts?

What Is StemSport?

StemSport is a supplement produced by StemTech, a company with its roots in Desert Lake, Oregon, now operating out of California.  It consists of the company’s own StemEnhance supplement with some additional substances, and it’s designed to increase the number of adult stem cells circulating through a user’s body.

Stem cells are at the center of a controversy that rages most strongly in the United States where a strong tradition of free enquiry bumps up hard against a powerful and organized religious lobby.  That controversy is based on the use of prenatal and umbilical cord stem cells, whose possible uses excite the scientific community and enrage religious people with abortion issues close to their hearts. But the stem cells StemTech are talking about aren’t those stem cells. 

 Adults continue to produce some stem cells throughout life and a small supply is stored in the brain, which are thought to be part of the explanation behind continued adult neuroplasticity, the process whereby the adult brain changes shape and grows, something it isn’t supposed to be able to do. 

The majority of adult stem cells are to be found in the bone marrow.

StemTech explain further: ‘Recent scientific developments have revealed that stem cells derived from the bone marrow, travel throughout the body, and act to support optimal organ and tissue function.’  The rationale behind their product is that: ‘Stem cell enhancers are products that support the natural role of adult stem cells.’

In other words, StemSport stimulates the release of stem cells from the bone marrow, and these stem cells then travel around the body replacing damaged or dysfunctional cells. 

StemSport's Amazing Effects

StemSport is gaining exposure across the web and more and more groups, individuals and organizations are jumping on the bandwagon. The National Basketball Retired Players’ Association featured StemSport in the giftbags the organization gave out at their Phoenix NBA All Star Weekend. On StemSport’s own website, runner Frank Condon says, ‘there are days on the track when I feel as good as I did running for Villanova University – 45 years ago!’

StemSport is especially marketed to the over-50s, with the company’s website claiming that ‘[a]s you age, the number and quality of stem cells that circulate in your body gradually decrease, leaving your body more susceptible to injury and other age-related health challenges.’ In consequence, StemSport is claimed to be able to alleviate problems as diverse as methamphetamine addiction and kidney cysts, in addition to the sport-related recovery improvements the product is actually sold for.

There’s more, though. StemTech’s Chief Science Officer, Christian Drapeau, told The Scientist that he had heard anecdotal support for StemSport including tales of diabetics who had ceased taking insulin, wheelchair users with multiple sclerosis who had begun walking again and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients who experienced a radical improvement in cognitive function. Mr. Drapeau said, ‘it’s pretty clear it is a natural process of healing,’ and estimated that his company had sold about 50, 000  bottles of StemSport, retailing at $60 each, since November of 2005. ‘Whenever a tissue or organ is in need of assistance, that area of the body will signal adult stem cells via chemical messengers, to release from their primary resting place (the bone marrow), circulate through the bloodstream, and migrate to the organ or tissue in need to help renew it,’ Mr Drapeau explained, and even went on to claim that ‘we are about to submit a study for publication that showed the product helped to renew hair color.’

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