Joost van der Westhuizen Stem Cell Treatment for ALS Disease

Joost van der Westhuizen Stem Cell Treatment. Aside from Peyton Manning and Bartolo Colon, another sportsman who underwent stem cell therapy to cure a health condition is South African rugby union star Joost van der Westhuizen.

Who is Joost van der Westhuizen?
Joost is a rugby union player from Pretoria, South Africa who is considered as one of the greatest half-backs of all time. He retired in 2003 and was inducted to the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 2007.

His Health Condition:
In May 2011, Joost was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a nervous system disease which attacks the neurons in your brain and the spinal cord resulting in a patient’s inability to control his voluntary muscles and move his arms, legs, and body. Says Joost of his condition:

“I struggled to move my hand, but I just left it. It’s typical; I thought it was an old sports injury. But, as time passed my speech became impaired. When I spoke to people, they would say: ‘Joost, are you drunk?'”

There is no known cure for ALS although the drug riluzole slows the progression of the disease and prolongs life. ALS is also known as as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the baseball hero who was diagnosed with the disease.

Joost’s Stem Cell Treatment:
In August 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the retired rugby star was undergoing an experimental stem cell therapy in an attempt to slow down the progress of his disease. According to the paper, his treatment “involved the removal of fat from the stomach using the same method as liposuction. Stem cells are extracted and injected into Mr van der Westhuizen’s weak thigh and arm muscles.”

According to, the treatment was administered by Dr Vernon Ching and Dr Tim Christofides at the new Netcare Waterfall City Hospital (in Midrand, South Africa). The doctors collected fat tissue from the patient which they sent to Netcells Cryogenics stem cell laboratory to have the mesenchymal stem cells isolated. Afterwards, “a therapeutic product was then prepared using a patented technique. Drs Ching and Christofides later administered this both intra┬ümuscularly and intravenously to Van der Westhuizen.”

The technique used by Joost’s doctors to prepare his treatment was developed by Dr Stephen Ray, chief scientist at Natural Biosciences SA and senior lecturer in Clinical Physiology at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom.

How Much Did Joost Spend For His Treatment?
We have no information on this one.

Is His Treatment Effective?
Whether this particular treatment is effective remains to be seen. It is worth noting that, in general, stem cell treatments are mostly experimental and whether they work or not can only be proven in the future as more and more brave, hopeful, and financially capable patients elect to undergo stem cell treatments.

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