(WXYZ) - When we get sick, it's common for us to reach for some medicine or maybe even have surgery to deal with disease or pain, but what if you could use your own healthy cells to fight back instead?
Right now, there's a procedure being performed in metro Detroit where healthy stem cells are stored so they can be reintroduced to your system and potentially have life changing or life saving benefits.
Dr. Michael Schenden is the first plastic surgeon in the US to perform the Forever Labs stem cell collection. He starts by harvesting her bone marrow to save those healthy stem cells.
"They should be available for many, many different medical applications is a wonderful thing," says Dr. Schenden.
The company behind this procedure is based in Ann Arbor and it's called Forever Labs.
We're told about 30 people have decided to store their stem cells this way. Sonja Michelsen is one of them. She had her daughter in her early 40s and felt like storing her own stem cells could pay off in the future.
"I want to be able to be here with her throughout her life," she says.
She knows there's no guarantee banking her stem cells will help her in the future, but she sees it as an investment that could pay off if her health takes a turn.
"To have that peace of mind that you do have something to use down the road .. is huge," she says.
Steven Clausnitzer is CEO of Forever Labs. He says by re-introducing your own healthy cells, you may be able to fight disease in the future.
"There are a number of ways people are already using these cells. Maybe the most promising .. orthopedic surgeons .. are reintroducing them into joints in lieu of surgery," he says.
Clausnitzer says there are about 500 clinical trials right now that are using stem cells that, one day, may be able to treat everything from osteoarthritis to multiple scleroses to cardiovascular disease.
This kind of stem cell banking is a 15 minute outpatient procedure. It starts with a local anesthetic in the lower back.
He says the number of your stem cells diminishes with age, as does their therapeutic quality.
"My stem cells were stored at 38. I'm going to turn 40 this year. I rest assured knowing I have my 38-year-old stem cells rendered biologically inert. They're no longer aging .. even as I do," says Clausnitzer.
Mark Katakowski is president of Forever Labs. He says his research showed him the rejuvenating and healing power of stem cells in animals. He believes it can have the same effect in humans.
He says the best time to store the stem cells is when you're young.
"There's a slower decline between 20 and 40 years-old and then it picks up. When you put them in the right place at the right time, they can actually improve recovery in a bunch of therapeutic applications," he says.
Katakowski says there's no limit as to how long they can be stored.
Should a person pass away, their stored stem cells would be destroyed unless arrangements have been made for them to be given to a family member.
At this point, the procedure is not FDA approved. The Forever Labs stem cell collection isn't covered by insurance. It costs around $3,500 to have the procedure done and $250 a year for storage.
The company says it plans to bring the first clinical trials for longevity to market in the next 7-10 years, once there is a large enough differential time between when our first clients stored their cells and can then reintroduce.
It says its goal is that its clientele will be able to participate in the first longevity based human trials utilizing autologous stem cell treatments of healthy individuals.