About Vigendo

Ingela Mauritzon, co founder of Vigendo, is a Swedish entrepreneur and China expert with experience in Asia that stretches back 11 years. She began her career at the embassies of Sweden in Singapore and Beijing where she acquired in-depth knowledge of the Asian and European travel markets as well as insight into the complicated laws and regulations surrounding healthcare, insurance and tourism between the two regions. This enabled her and her husband Jonas, an IT specialist, to found Fortune Cookie in 2006, a Singapore based travel agent focused on arranging technical visits and tours to and from Scandinavia.

In 2007, Ingela had a unique opportunity to participate in a healthcare project in China which led her to meet with a number of hospitals in China offering stem cell treatments. She began working full time with Beijing Tiantan Puhua Hospital as well as the General Hospital for Armed Police Forces and the 309 Army General Hospital to offer state of the art medical treatments, available only at these facilities, to patients from overseas. Vigendo, the medical arm of her travel company, was founded in 2009 around the services she was offering to non-Chinese citizens at these facilities.
In 2010, Vigendo has launched several new treatments in cooperation with their partner hospitals. In 2011, Ingela is looking forward to expanding her team and offices in Beijing and Singapore and increasing Vigendo?s cooperation with hospitals throughout Asia.

Vigendo is the only independent stem cell treatment broker in Asia. Through our services, our clients have unique access to the most innovative and result oriented stem cell treatments in the world. When you choose Vigendo as your partner, our team of specialists will support you throughout the sign up and evaluation process, during the entire treatment and after you have returned home.

Vigendo?s treatment packages include a full evaluation, booking, medical treatment, all doctors visits, housing for the patient and caregiver, rehabilitation, additional traditional Chinese medicine, administrative services and translation. Vigendo will also arrange transportation to and from the hospital as well as additional support when you have returned home after the stem cell treatment is completed.

For more information, visit our website at www.vigendo.com or write to us at info@vigendo.com.

You can also join us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Questions & Aanswers

Q: I found a very interesting article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/he...es-vision.html in regards to a cure for some kinds of blindness. What I can't find is a place that is using this new technology. Do any of the clinics you work with use this technology?
A: Unfortunately none of the hospitals we are working with are using this type of technology. According to my experience, the focus in Asia, and particularly in China, seems to be on developing treatments where you are transplanting cultured stem cells directly into the patient and letting them work naturally in the body. I know of several research projects and ongoing clinical trials in the US and the EU where researchers are working on extracting cells and growing new organs and tissue outside the body and then grafting/transplanting the tissue back on to the patient but I haven't yet heard of any mainstream treatments that use this type of technology.
Having said that, stem cell treatments have been very effective in restoring sight to some patients treated with lumbar puncture or IV stem cell transplants. I expect to see more eye-specific treatments emerge here in China within the next year or two.

Q: Will stem cell therapy help with a condition called pins and needles in the legs? If so, what kind of stem cell treatment would help? I take medication now, but it only makes me tired.
A: We work with two hospitals in Beijing that are specifically treating patients with pins and needle sensation in their legs and fingers. Stem cells are particularly good at repairing nerves and normalizing blood flow to the limbs by repairing and regenerating damaged or blocked blood vessels.
The treatments we have been offering utilize autologous bone marrow cells or umbilical cord cells and the cultured cells are injected directly into the legs or feet using a simple muscle injection. This treatment is rapidly becoming the choice treatment for many Chinese doctors dealing with diabetic neuropathy. Contact me with your information if you would like to know more about how to access this treatment. My email is ingela@vigendo.com.

Q: Is there any known and proven stem cell based treatment for erectile dysfunction? Specifically, one that results from venuous leakage and/or some damage to the veins carrying blood into the penis?
A: As I mentioned in the previous question, stem cells are particularly good at repairing nerves and blood vessels. I have not seen treatments specifically focused on erectile dysfunction but I have seen excellent treatments for vein damage. Send your contact information to ingela@vigendo.com and I will get back to you with what our medical teams say about this and see what kind of treatments may become available in future.

Q: Does China have an equivalent of the FDA? Do the clinics have to follow certain guidelines?
A: Yes they do, it is called the SFDA and they have strict guidelines. When it comes to stem cell and gene therapy, the SFDA have specific rules that do not allow certain items to be used in treatment, such as animal or cloned tissue. Also, state run hospitals are not allowed to administer treatments unless they have supplied the SFDA with clear statistics and data that show that the treatment actually works.
I spoke to one of the regulators in charge of stem cell treatment just a couple of weeks ago, she informed me that while stem cell treatment is perfectly legal in China, the laws surrounding treatment are strict and continuously up for review. She specifically pointed out that hospitals must show that their treatments are up to scratch and that the cells they use are safe.

Here is a brief summary of the existing stem cell regulation:

"Any Medical institution that wishes to apply for clinical application of stem cell treatments should first pass a technical audit. As part of the audit, the relevant authority will check if the institution has conducted appropriate clinical trials and that safety and efficacy are proven. Additionally each medical facility applying for approval will also require separate approval from the appropriate administrative departments of the government as well as clearance from the medical ethics review committee.

Medical facilities applying for permission to carry out clinical stem cell treatments are required submit a feasibility study report which includes:
A general profile of each medical technology used, indications, contradictions, side effects, stem cell lines, quality control measures, efficacy of standards, methods of assessment, risks, efficacy, cost and treatment comparisons.

The qualifications of the main technical personnel performing the procedures should submit their relevant curriculum vitas and medical equipment, facilities and other auxiliary conditions are checked. Additionally, risk assessments and contingency plans are carefully revised by the authorities and clearance from the medical ethics review body is required.
Violation of the law is punishable according to formerly existing acts and laws."

I asked her if she thought stem cell treatment would be regulated in future so that access to the treatments would become limited to Chinese citizens only (this is also something we get asked about all the time) and she told me she did not foresee any such regulation any time soon, i.e. the treatments will continue to be offered to non-Chinese citizens at many of the countries hospitals.

Q: Do the clinics/hospitals you work with conduct any clinical trials or studies? If so, are non citizens eligible to participate and how would I find out about them?
A: Yes, all of our partner hospitals are required to show that they have performed clinical trials on the treatments they perform (see question above), they are unfortunately seldom open to non-citizens though. If any of our hospitals begin clinical trials that are open to non-citizens, we will definitely post this on our website: www.vigendo.com.

Q: Since you are like a broker, will I end up paying more for treatment then if I went directly through one of the clinics or hospitals myself? What do you do that I couldn't do on my own?
A: I often get questions about cost and how we charge and the short answer is no, you will not be paying more if you go through us. We work very hard to ensure that our prices are no higher than they would be if our client had approached the hospital by themselves. This is achieved through patient volume, long and hard negotiations at each level and how we construct our contracts. On a professional level, it wouldn't make sense for us to charge more for our services since that would put us out of business.
The advantages of going through us is that you get access to years of collected expertise from our team to help you choose the right hospital for your condition, you will be going through an independent provider that can help resolve conflicts, you get expert translation and administrative help as well as additional assistance with day to day living in China that you would not have access to otherwise.
I am more than happy to answer any further questions or concerns you may have about pricing. You are welcome to send emails directly to me at ingela@vigendo.com.

Q: Are the clinics you represent doing any kind of safety studies? I have heard some horror stories and it scares me to think of taking my child so far from home where there might not be anyone who speaks English. Are the clinics you deal with treating ONH?
A: Yes, all of our partner hospitals are required to show the government their complete research data as well as safety studies. This is also something we require them to show us before we begin a cooperation with them.
Actually, English is much less of an issue than it was a few years ago. Many of the doctors that we work with have come back from doing their post-graduate work in the US or in Europe and speak excellent English. Also, since the amount of non-Chinese patients have risen so dramatically, most of the hospitals now require nurses and auxiliary staff to speak English. At the hospitals we work with, we also provide additional staff to take care of any cultural or language issues and to provide extra service when necessary.
Yes, there is are umbilical cord stem cells treatments in China for ONH. Send me an email at ingela@vigendo.com if you are interested in getting further information, I would be happy to help.

Q: What is the advantage of going to China over another country? Is there something you feel is more advanced or is the price less or what would make me want to choose China? I live in the U.S.
A: There are several reasons why I would recommend anyone considering stem cell treatment to come to China:
  • Experience - At Chinese hospitals they have been treating thousands of patients since 2001, the sheer volume of patients and experience they have amassed is staggering. They continue to treat large amounts of patients every day, from both China and abroad.
  • Research - The Chinese government is pouring money into Regenerative Medicine, they have specific goals set up to become world leaders in the field. At the moment, several of our partners have huge research projects going on within regenerative medicine and publish a massive amount of papers each year.
  • Regulation - Uniquely to China, you can actually get stem cell treatment at government regulated hospitals instead of only at certain private clinics since treatment is mainstream and used on an everyday basis for Chinese citizens also. More about regulation is explained elsewhere in this Q&A.
  • Stem cell processing - China is one of the few places in the world where they really pay attention to the stem cells themselves. After the cells are extracted, they are tested, cultured and processed so that you not only get the best quality cells but also a pre-determined amount of stem cells per injection. In other countries culturing and processing is not as advanced.
  • Value - At all of our partner hospitals, you get a 3-5 week treatment with full medical attention, physical therapy, acupuncture and three to four stem cell injections. For the equivalent price in other areas of the world you get one stem cell injection and no additional service.

Having said all this though, not all Chinese hospitals are excellent. As with all medical care, it is important to choose hospitals carefully in order to get the best possible treatment. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the hospital is treating Chinese patients as well as non-Chinese citizens, and that they have their own research facilities.

Q: I have COPD. Is this being treated? If so, what kind of stem cells are used and how many treatments are you estimating it might take to get any real regeneration? If this is something that is being treated, how many patients have the facilities you represent treated and with what rate of success?
A: We do not have experience with COPD unfortunately. Our team is always on the look out for new treatments though and will publish news, treatment statistics and articles that may be of interest on our website. If you like, I can also put you on our mailing list for information about new or coming treatments. Send your details to ingela@vigendo.com.

Q: Is there any stem cell/gene therapy going on in China?
A: Yes there is, specifically for some forms of cancer. We will be posting more as this develops and are happy to accept emails (ingela@vigendo.com) and enquiries on gene therapy if you have specific questions.

About the Hospital Staff

Dr. Kai Feng
Dr. Feng (MD) is an associate research fellow and deputy chief physician at the People's Liberation Army Hospital, second affiliated hospital of stem cells. He is also on the editorial board of the "Chinese journal of medical research" and "China clinical rehabilitation".

In 2002 he received a doctorate in Military Medical Sciences for his work on stem cell therapy research. He has studied at the prestigious Tsinghua University and his doctoral thesis is included in a collection of "China's Outstanding Thesis and Dissertations".

Dr. Feng's has clinical experience with: Acute leukemia, malignant lymphoma (Dr. Feng has, together with Professor Chen Hu, treated more than 300 patients using hematopoietic stem cell transplantation); right renal cell carcinoma, melanoma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer and liver cancer using DC immunotherapy; other malignant tumors using CIK and NK cells; autologous stem cell transplantations in the treatment of diabetic foot, lower limb arterial occlusive disease (more than 100 patients clinical experience), miocardial ischemic disease, paraplegia, diabetes (autologous stem cell transplantation was used to repair the function of the pancreas) and Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Feng has published more than 60 scientific papers and has headed over 10major research projects.

Dr. Xiaodong Wang
Dr. Wang is currently the Deputy Director of the Stem Cell Transplantation Department at the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces in Beijing. She also serves as a physician with extensive experience in neurology and nephrology.

Between 2006 and 2008 she received the highest level national public scholarship to pursue post doctoral degree in research at Harvard University and the University of Rochester, in the USA.

Her post doctoral research focus was neural stem cells in central nervous system (CNS) injury and repair involving molecular mechanisms.

Dr. Wang is a recipient of many honors and awards including the Science & Technology Progress Awards awarded by the Ministry of Health and the Armed Police Force Science and Technology Progress Award.

Dr. Yihua An
Dr. An has been chief physician and head of the stem cell transplantation department of the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces in Beijing. He is also the Chairman of the stem cell laboratory at Tiantan Hospital, the countries top neuroscience hospital and WHO's training center for neurology in China.

Dr. An is considered a pioneer in stem cell treatment in China and his extensive research has shaped stem cell therapy throughout the region. One of Dr. An's most noted achievements is his groundbreaking CT guided stem cell transplantation method for spinal cord injuries, but his specialties also include the treatment of cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral infarction, cerebral trauma and spinal injury, motor neuron disease, cerebral palsy and multiple systems atrophy with neuro stem cells. To date he has published over 30 peer reviewed scientific papers at home and abroad.

Dr. Xiaodi Han
Dr. Han graduated from Shanghai Medical University in 1992. He finished his post-doctoral research in University of Rochester this year. His experience includes surgical approaches to neurological diseases and injuries such as brain tumors, cerebral aneurysms, malignant gliomas, neurodegeneration disease, traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

He has excellent skills in the application of neuronavigation systems during surgery (intraoperative ultrasound application), tumor vaccine in treatment of malignant glioma and stem cell treatment.

Dr. Qiong Zhang
A graduate of Beijing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Qiong Zhang has over 10 years of clinical experience. She specializes in the treatment of cancer, using a combination of western medicine and traditional Chinese methods. In recent years, she has researched the treatment of tumors with stem cells and EAAL.

Her successful treatment packages combine surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, stem cell therapy, EAAL treatment and TCM treatment. She has experience with a wide range of malignant tumors. Additionally, Dr. Zhang has long experience in treating diabetes and liver diseases.