Stem Cell - Archive

February 2007: Stem Cell Research

Adult Stem Cells Taken from Human Fat Tissue Used to Treat Heart Failure 

Sweden Company Wants To Start First Stem Cell Research Factory

Leading Scientist Charges Colleagues With “Misleading” Public

British Stem Cell Researcher: Benefits of Therapeutic Cloning Oversold

Rich Donors Fund California Stem Cell Research Panel During Lawsuit 

Scientists See Potential In Amniotic Stem Cells

Florida Gov Backs Measure Granting Funds to Non-Embryonic Research Only…   

 For more information about Stem Cell Research, click on Stem Cells in the left menu.

Adult Stem Cells Taken from Human Fat Tissue Used to Treat Heart Failure. A heart attack victim was treated with stem cells taken from his own fat tissue in a groundbreaking new experiment taking place in Spain this week, Science Daily reported Feb.7.
 
In a collaborative effort, Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Aviles [Professor, Cardiovascular Medicine and Chief of Cardiology Service, Gregorio Marañón] and Dr. Perin [Director, New Interventional Cardiovascular Technology and Director of Stem Cell Center, Texas Heart Institute, St. Luke’s] have undertaken the attempt to use human adipose (fat) tissue as a source of adult stem cells to regenerate damaged heart muscle.
 
The cells were removed from adipose tissue in a procedure similar to that of liposuction. After processing, the stem cells were injected directly into the patient’s heart, targeting areas of damaged but still viable tissue.
 
“This is the first time we have used adipose-derived stem cells in humans. We had good results in our pre-clinical tests and we are excited about taking this research to the next level,” said Dr. Perin.
 
A similar study also being carried out at the Texas Heart Institute, and in by a research team in the United Kingdom, involves the use of adult stem cells taken from the patient’s bone marrow and injected into an artery. The cells are believed to repair heart tissue after traveling through the blood stream.
 
“The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s has been conducting the first FDA-approved adult stem cell study for heart failure patients using stem cells taken from the patients’ own bone marrow. We have almost completed enrolling the final patient in that 30-patient study and look forward to sharing those results later this year,” said James T. Willerson, M.D., president-elect and medical director of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s.
 
Research using adult stem cells has seen marked success in a variety of areas, including treatments for blindness, paralysis, and leukemia in children. Multiple studies under way hold promise for the future treatment of diseases as varied as diabetes, cancer, tooth decay, and adult leukemia.
 
Despite the success rate of research involving adult stem cells, embryonic cellular research that requires the killing of human embryos continues to be the focus of much of the research into stem cell treatments. Embryonic stem cell research, however, has not produced any medically-successful therapies to this date.
 
Coverage:
Success Stories with Adult Stem Cells Coming in Almost Too Fast to Track
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jan/05012007.html
 
Adult Stem Cells Successfully Regenerate Pig Teeth, New Study Finds
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07010502.html
 
Adult Stem Cell Research: True Potential Sacrificed for Other Possibilities Says Biotech Writer
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/jun/06061311.html
 
Adult Stem Cells May One Day Grow New Teeth
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/mar/05031101.html
 
Human Liver Grown from Cord Blood Stem Cells–Media Ignores UK Breakthrough
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/nov/06110105.html
 
Adult Stem Cells Used to Treat Emergency Heart Attack Patients
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/nov/06110809.html
[9Feb07, Schultz, Madrid, LifeSiteNews.com]  

FL GOV BACKS MEASURE GRANTING FUNDS FOR NON-EMBRYONIC ONLY RESEARCH. Proposed legislation that would see Florida state funding limited to non-embryonic stem cell research has received the surprise backing of Gov. Charlie Crist.

Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink reported yesterday on the newly-elected governor’s surprise Wednesday recommendation that $20 million in grant funding be allocated to research using adult stem cells or those harvested from birth products and amniotic fluid.

“Every day, the miracles of science give hope to Floridians and their loved ones, and this funding will move stem-cell research forward,” Gov. Crist said. 

The governor’s announcement comes as the Florida legislature considers two opposing proposals on stem cell research–along with the bill supported by Gov. Crist, another proposal would grant the funding to embryonic research efforts.

Dr. David Prentice, senior fellow for life sciences with the Family Research Council, told CitizenLink Gov. Crist’s decision showed wisdom and courage.

"I think it's a very important lesson," Prentice concluded. "The governor, as the leader of a state, can use his bully pulpit to get out there and say, 'We really want to fund ethical research and this is the way to go.' More governors need to follow Gov. Crist's example."

“I think this is an excellent sign," Prentice said, "lining up not only with the ethical science, but with the successful science from adult stem-cell research." 

On April 15, 2007, the Florida Supreme Court will consider two ballot initiatives representing the two legislative proposals, meaning voters could have their say on the matter in 2008.

“The possibilities are that one or both will be on the ballot," said Susan Cutaia, president of Citizens for Science and Ethics, which is sponsoring the proposed ban on embryonic stem cells.

"We feel confident that, by that time, there will have been sufficient discussion and dialogue on this issue that most people will come to the polls and make a right decision," she said.

The stem cell research race continues to spread throughout the states, with eight states specifically endorsing embryonic research and more working on proposals to enter the competition, most notably New York–Gov. Elliot Spitzer recently proposed a $1 billion funding program that would challenge California’s lead in embryonic research.

Florida would not be alone in withholding funding from research on human embryos, however–Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa and North and South Dakota have all banned embryonic research, while others are working to limit state funding for it, including Arizona, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio.

Related: New York Legislature Pledges to Outstrip Competitors in Funding Ambitious Embryo Research Project http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07011702.html
[2Feb07, G. Schultz, LifeSiteNews.com]
  

 

SWEDEN COMPANY WANTS TO START FIRST STEM CELL RESEARCH FACTORY. The Swedish company Cellartis is set to build the world's first factory to produce large volumes of stem cells taken by destroying human embryos.

The factory will be located in Dundee in Scotland and is a collaboration between Cellartis, the Scottish government and the University of Glasgow. The factory will supply large volumes of stem cell lines to the global pharmaceutical and biotech industry. It is located close to the location where Dolly the sheep was cloned. Around 100 stem cell experts are expected to work at the plant when it is up and running.

"It was not possible to receive such a large sum of money in Sweden, which is one of the reasons why we are establishing the factory in Scotland", Anders Vedin [Cellartis’ Chairman] said. "Many of the large pharmaceutical companies like Glaxosmithkline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Astrazeneca are also located in this neighborhood." The Swedish company will maintain its headquarters in Gothenburg but will also work with the Scottish stem cell community to explore new business opportunities. [22Jan07, LifeNews.com, Gothenburg, Sweden]

 

LEADING SCIENTIST CHARGES COLLEAGUES WITH “MISLEADING” PUBLIC; asks them to justify why other human embryonic life is less worthy than their own. A leading U.S. researcher in adult stem cell technology has stated there is no legitimate scientific justification for questioning when human life begins

In an interview with Anita Crane for Celebrate Life magazine, Dr. James Sherley–recently denied tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he says for his views on embryo research–accused some of his colleagues of deliberately misleading the public about the beginnings of human life in order to justify embryonic research.

“I am upset when I hear knowing scientists needlessly confuse and mislead people who look to them for objectivity and integrity,” he said. “The world is a complicated place and there is a vast amount that we do not know about how it works and how we in it work.

“Science, in its best formulation, seeks to define how the world works in terms that transcend human belief, human psyche and human mystery,” Dr. Sherley said. “It seeks to define the world in terms that are universal and knowable by all.

“For this specific discussion, within this clear framework of scientific principle, scientists can define when a human life begins. Like thousands of other multicellular organisms on this planet, human beings start life as a single cell embryo, the product of the union of a complete human genome and the programming cytoplasm of a human egg. This union occurs at fertilization.”

The only issue, Dr. Sherley said, is, “When does a human life begin?”

“Whether or not the embryo has yet developed spinal nerves or self-awareness is an irrelevant point made to distract and confuse. I challenge the promoters of human embryonic stem cell research to justify why another human embryonic life is less
worthy than their own was.”

While Dr. Sherley said he initially attributed the MIT chair’s refusal to consider him for tenure to racism–Dr. Sherley is of African descent–suggestions by colleagues during the two-year investigation of his complaint pointed to his outspoken opposition to embryonic research as a major factor in the case.

Dr. Sherley, who has concentrated his research on techniques to improve the multiplication capability of adult stem cells, has been a significant player in the effort to expose the immorality of embryonic research. Dr. Sherley participated in the campaign to prevent the passage of a bill permitting human cloning for research purposes in Missouri last November, and earlier in the fall spoke to an international group of scientists, theologians and bioethicists in Rome at a congress entitled “Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?” organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

“My father is a Baptist minister and one of my important role models for life. The strength that has sustained me through life’s many difficulties and allowed me to be forever optimistic of the goodness that begins every human life is my Christian faith,” Dr. Sherley told Celebrate Life.

Objections to embryonic research are dismissed if a scientist is found to have any religious beliefs, he said.

“How convenient for promoters of human embryonic stem cell research. My objections are on both moral grounds and scientific grounds, independent of my religious bearing. Religious belief is not required to recognize and seek to prevent a human atrocity; and religious belief cannot invalidate the scientific facts that human life begins when a human genome meets the wonder of the human egg.”

With 15 patents pending for Dr. Sherley’s technique of multiplying adult stem cells, the researcher’s contributions to the field are evident.

MIT:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307;  Tel: (617) 253-1000

Coverage:
http://clmagazine.org/backissues/2007janfeb_20-23jamessherley.pdf

Previous coverage:
Prestigious MIT Professor Who Opposes Embryo Research Faces Ousting by University
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07010206.html
[31Jan07, Boston, G. Schultz, LifeSiteNews.com]

 

 

British Stem Cell Researcher: Benefits of Therapeutic Cloning Oversold. A leading British scientist who has engaged in stem cell research says the benefits of human cloning for research are being oversold. Professor Austin Smith of the University of Cambridge says research cloning may never lead to cures and that scientists should focus more on adult stem cell research.

Professor Smith told the local Times newspaper that human cloning for research purposes "clearly upsets the general public" and has limited potential for treating diseases. It also adds little to the understanding of human biology, he said.

Smith also indicated that one of the biggest reasons for creating cloned human embryos — to eventually yield patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome immune system rejection issues — may never come to fruition. Instead, Smith said scientists should spend more time focusing on adult stem cell research or using embryonic stem cells from leftover human embryos from fertility clinics. Such research has not been given enough attention, he told the Times, but would likely be more beneficial for patients in the long-term. Smith is also concerned that some cloning experiments are simply being performed out of intellectual curiosity without any real purpose.  [20Dec06, LifeNews.com, Cambridge, England]  
 

Rich Donors Fund California Stem Cell Research Panel During Lawsuit.
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — The California panel charged with disseminating billions of dollars over the next ten years for stem cell research and human cloning hasn't sold a single bond to raise money for the grants because of lawsuits against it. However, rich donors have kept the agency afloat with millions in private donations.

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine can't sell bonds because they could be worthless if lawsuits against it succeed. That hasn't stopped rich Californians from giving CIRM $31 million to allow it to continue operations and make the first round of small grants.

Rich donors such as Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and sound-technology pioneer Ray Dolby who are giving not only to CIRM but local universities to expand their stem cell research efforts.

Earlier this year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $100 million to his alma mater Johns Hopkins University. "I was amazed by the number of wealthy Californians who have stepped up and decided to support a public agency," Owen Witte, director of the new Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine at UCLA, told the Post. "I've never heard of anything like this." The lawsuits say the committee has failed to live up to state laws governing open meetings and conflicts of interest and they say the state is legally obligated to have more control over the panel than Proposition 71 set up. [20Dec06, LifeNews.com]  

There are TWO MAIN TYPES OF STEM CELLS:
1. Embryonic
2. NON-embryonic

1. Embryonic. At this time, NO (0, nada, not even one) successful human trials (much less treatments) have been conducted using embryonic stem cells (major tumor development and immunity/rejection problems). Embryonic stem cells are obtained by destroying human embryos; this is controversial because it is unethical and immoral. Private industry realizes this path of research is unproductive and expensive and does n

ot financially back it.

2. NON-embryonic. At this time, at least 70 successful human treatments — using NON-embryonic stem cells —  have been carried out worldwide and described in peer-reviewed medical journals. NON-embryonic stem cells are obtained by removing them from 3 major sources: "ADULT" stem cells – from human bone marrow, nasal tissue, tooth pulp, muscle tissue, fat (adipose) tissue, etc; UMBILICAL CORD blood &/or Wharton's Jelly; PLACENTAL tissue &/or (as reported) amniotic fluid. They are derived in an ethical manner. Private industry recognizes that this is the ethically acceptable, highly productive, financial "gold mine", and so this is where their funding dollars are going.

Please keep these facts in mind every time you read or hear any media reports. Please remember that some of the comments you hear or read below, which are less than positive toward NON-embryonic stem cell research (Adult Stem Cell Research), are comments from those involved in Embryonic Stem Cell Research. The reports are often disingenuous, quite confused, and filled with half-truths, intentionally or otherwise…

The Embryonic stem cell industry only has one place to look for funding — from the government. Funding for Embryonic (Embryo-Destructive) Stem Cell Research (ESCR) with taxpayer dollars is essentially "welfare money" for these researchers. Any real success for ESCR, to overcome the major problems and actually treat human beings, is decades away, at best…

One other comment about harvesting Amniotic Stem Cells: while this is certainly not as ethically problematic as destroying human embryos, any entrance into the amniotic sac during pregnancy carries a risk of damage to the human embryo, or even its death/removal from the mother's uterus — a spontaneous abortion. Thus, other methods of NON-embryonic stem cell harvesting (Adult, Umbilical Cord, Placental) still appear to be superior to this method of collection because this method still could damage the human embryo. However, other types of ethically-collected stem cells have been identified and are being researched which are also as versatile as embryonic stem cells.

So, when the media will help by truly investigating the success of ALL types of NON-embryonic stem cells, we will read and hear about these medical break-throughs as well…st

 

Scientists See Potential In Amniotic Stem Cells: They Are Highly Versatile And Readily Available
A type of cell that floats freely in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women has been found to have many of the same traits as embryonic stem cells, including an ability to grow into brain, muscle and other tissues that could be used to treat a variety of diseases, scientists reported yesterday.

The cells, shed by the developing fetus and easily retrieved during "routine" prenatal testing, are easier to maintain in laboratory dishes than embryonic stem cells — the highly versatile cells that come from destroyed human embryos and are at the center of a heated congressional debate that will resume this week.

Moreover, because the cells are a genetic match to the developing fetus, tissues grown from them in the laboratory will not be rejected if they are used to treat birth defects in that newborn, researchers said. Alternatively, the cells could be frozen, providing a personalized tissue bank for use later in life.

The new cells are adding credence to an emerging consensus among experts that the popular distinction between embryonic and "adult" stem cells — those isolated from adult bone marrow and other organs — is artificial. [ed. in regards to their abilities to develop into many cell tissue types]

Increasingly, it appears there is a continuum of stem cell types, ranging from the embryonic ones that can morph into virtually any kind of tissue but are difficult to tame, up to adult ones that can turn into a limited number of tissues but are relatively easy to control.

The newly analyzed fetal stem cells, scientists said, have many of the advantages of both.

"They grow fast, as fast as embryonic stem cells, and they show great pluripotentiality," meaning they can become many kinds of tissues, said study leader Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "But they remain stable for years without forming tumors," he added, something that embryonic cells are not very good at.

Atala and other scientists emphasized that they don't believe the cells will make embryonic stem cells irrelevant.

"There's not going to be one shoe that fits all," said Robert Lanza, scientific director at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass. "We're going to have to see which ones are most useful for which clinical conditions."

George Daley, a Harvard stem cell researcher, echoed that sentiment. "They are not a replacement for embryonic stem cells," he said.

But in the past, even hints that non-embryonic cells might have medical potential similar to embryonic ones have complicated the political push to expand federal funding for the controversial field.

"This is wonderful news," said Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of pro-life activities  [USCCB] which opposes research that depends on embryo destruction. "It doesn't require harming anyone or destroying life at any stage."

Last year, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have allowed federal funding of research on stem cells from embryos discarded by fertility clinics. The newly Democratic Congress has promised to send the same or a similar bill to Bush's desk with even greater majorities early this term, with the House slated to vote on the matter this week.

The new work, described in yesterday's online edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology, shows that "amniotic fluid-derived stem cells" can be isolated as early as 10 weeks after conception from fluid extracted during tests widely done to detect birth defects.< /span>

In the laboratory, the amniotic cells can mature into all of the major types of cells, dividing at the impressive clip of once every 36 hours yet never showing signs of aging and never becoming tumors — even after living for more than two years in the lab.

With co-workers from Wake Forest and from Children's Hospital in Boston, Atala coaxed the cells to become brain cells and injected them into the skulls of mice with diseased brains. The new cells filled in diseased areas and appeared to make new connections with nearby healthy neurons.

When coaxed to become bone cells and seeded onto a gelatin scaffold that was then implanted in a mouse, the cells calcified and turned into dense, healthy bone.

Under other conditions they became muscle, fat, blood vessel and liver cells.

Atala said that if 100,000 women donated their amniotic cells to a bank, that would provide enough cells of sufficient genetic diversity to provide immunologically compatible tissues for virtually everyone in the United States. With more than 4 million U.S. births a year, it would not take long to collect that many specimens, he said — especially because the cells can be found not only in amniotic fluid but also in the placenta, which is discarded after birth.

The rights to certain patent claims relating to the cells have been licensed to Plureon Corp. of Winston-Salem, a privately held company on whose board of directors Atala sits.

Although several stem cell experts applauded the work, some questioned the novelty of the newly described cells. Similar cells have been under study for years with little fanfare, they noted. And though Atala's careful characterization of them is better than any previously done, they said, it is not clear that his cells are truly different than ones others have in hand.

At Children's Hospital in Boston, for example, Dario Fauza, a pediatric surgeon, has been cultivating similar cells and getting them to grow into cartilage, which he has used to repair defective windpipes in newborn sheep. He has also grown the cells into tendon tissue that was used to repair defective diaphragms in sheep.

Fauza is seeking Food and Drug Administration permission to try the method in children diagnosed with birth defects while in the womb. He hopes to grow replacement tissues from their own amniotic cells and use those tissues to repair their defects after birth.

"Typically, you don't do anything until the child is born, and then you are scrambling to fix it," Fauza said. "Why not take out some amniotic fluid, which we do routinely anyway, and engineer a tissue in parallel during the remainder of gestation so he or she will have a tissue by the time he or she is born?" [Washington Post 8January 8, 2007; A01, Rick Weiss
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/01/07/AR2007010700674_pf.html]

 

Editor's Note: This news has been reported recently as if it were brand new. In fact, stem cells from NON-embryonic sources (adult stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells, placental/amniotic fluid stem cells) have been on the research scene for years. Actually, we have used adult stem cells for human treatments for decades because, we have discovered, they are the "important ingredient" in bone marrow transplants…

 

Study: Amniotic Fluid Yields Stem Cells. Scientists reported Sunday they had found a plentiful source of stem cells in the fluid that cushions babies in the womb and produced a variety of tissue types from these cells, sidestepping the controversy over destroying embryos for research.

Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells. They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.

"Our hope is that these cells will provide a valuable resource for tissue repair and for engineered organs as well," said Dr. Anthony Atala, head of Wake Forest's regenerative medicine institute and senior researcher on the project.

It took Atala's team some seven years of research to determine the cells they found were truly stem cells that "can be used to produce a broad range of cells that may be valuable for therapy."

However, the scientists noted they still don't know exactly how many different cell types can be made from the stem cells found in amniotic fluid. They also said that even preliminary tests in patients are years away.

Still, Atala said the research reported in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology expands far beyond similar work discussed at a heart research conference in November. There, Swiss researcher Simon Hoerstrup said he managed to turn amniotic fluid stem cells into heart cells that could be grown into replacement valves. Hoerstrup has yet to publish his work in a scientific journal.

Atala said the new research has found even more promising stem cells with the potential to turn into many more medically useful replacement parts.

"We have other cell lines cooking," Atala said.

The hallmark of human embryonic stem cells, which are created in the first days after conception, is the ability to turn into any of the more than 220 cell types that make up the human body. Researchers are hopeful they can train these primordial cells to repair damaged organs in need of healthy cells.

However, many people, including President Bush, oppose the destruction of embryos for any reason. The Bush administration has restricted federal funding [research is not restricte

d, only funding] for the embryo work since 2001, leading many scientists to search for alternative stem cell sources.

The cells from amniotic fluid "can clearly generate a broad range of important cell types, but they may not do as many tricks as embryonic stem cells," said Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientist at the stem cell company Advanced Cell Technology. "Either way, I think this work represents a giant step forward for stem cell research."

It's the latest advance in the so-called regenerative medicine field that has sprung from Atala's lab in Winston-Salem, N.C. In April, Atala and his colleagues rebuilt bladders for seven young patients using live tissue grown in the lab.

In the latest work, Atala's team extracted a small number of stem cells swimming among the many other cell types in the amniotic fluid. One of the more promising aspects of the research is that some of the DNA of the amnio stem cells contained Y chromosomes, which means the cells came from the babies rather than the pregnant moms.

Dr. George Daley, a Harvard University stem cell researcher, said that finding raises the possibility that someday expectant parents can freeze amnio stem cells for future tissue replacement in a sick child without fear of immune rejection.

Nonetheless, Daley said the discovery shouldn't be used as a replacement for human embryonic stem cell research.

"While they are fascinating subjects of study in their own right, they are not a substitute for human embryonic stem cells, which allow scientists to address a host of other interesting questions in early human development," said Daley, who began work last year to clone human embryos to produce stem cells. [AP, 7Jan07, P. Elias, http://www.breitbart.com/news/2007/01/07/D8MGQVE80.html]

[Comment: Note this quote: "Daley said the discovery shouldn't be used as a replacement for human embryonic stem cell research." Even when adult stem cells discoveries or successful treatments finally make the news, the unproven and unethical embryonic stem cell research is always defended. It's not only the ethics-or lack of-that is a problem. There's an awful lot of money riding on embryonic stem cell research – and the researchers – now.  Valko RN]