Stem Cell - Archive

January 2008: Stem Cell Research

Biotech Firm Claims to Have Used Human Cloning to Make Human Child
 
Researchers Replicate Recent Studies Producing Ethical iPS Embryonic-Like Stem Cells
 
Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative Researcher Doesn't Like Destroying Life
 
Genetically-Related Cord Blood Stem Cells Do Better in Patient Transplants
 
Adult Stem Cells Appear to be Working as Treatment for Heart Disease
 
Making Brand New Hearts: Adult Stem Cells May Hold Key to Ethical Heart Transplants

BIOTECH FIRM CLAIMS TO HAVE USED HUMAN CLONING TO MAKE HUMAN CHILD.

UPDATE: …Stem cells weren't produced by the new embryos either, and because of that, experts reacted coolly to the research.
"I found it difficult to determine what was substantially new," said Doug Melton of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. He said the "next big advance will be to create a human embryonic stem cell line" from cloned embryos. "This has yet to be achieved."
Dr. George Daley of the Harvard institute and Children's Hospital Boston called the new report interesting but agreed that "the real splash" will be when somebody creates stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. [17Jan08, http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/01/17/cloned.embryos.ap/index.html]

Scientists at a private research firm say they are the first to have successfully cloned a human being, publishing a report in the medical journal Stem Cells to that effect.

Researchers at the California-based Stemagen claim to have taken the skin cells from two adult males and implanted the nuclei of those cells in human egg cells. If the company's claims are true, they are the first to engage in human cloning, even if only making human embryos in a petri dish. Samuel Wood of Stemagen Corporation told MSNBC that "it was an amazing experience to look at that blastocyst and realize that it came from one of my cells. It's a bit like looking at yourself from a long time ago."

The company admitted that the cloned embryos were destroyed and the lab has not been successful in culturing the clone's embryonic stem cells. Though the company only wants to clone and kill human embryos for their stem cells, bioethicists worry that there is nothing stopping another company from taking the science and using it to create human clones for reproductive purposes.

Bioethics Defense Fund President Nikolas Nikas told LifeNews.com that this news highlights the necessity of state and federal legislation banning the creation of cloned human embryos for any purpose. [18Jan08, LifeNews.com]

[ed. Note of Possible Interest (or The Emperor's New Clothes): Congress is preparing to vote in the near future on funding for embryonic stem cell (ESCR) & cloning research. A pattern of such supposed "breakthroughs" in ESCR/cloning has been happening the last few years as Congress is poised for a funding vote. Following the vote, nothing further is heard about the "breakthrough", or a quiet announcement is made that maybe they didn't really have a "breakthrough" after all… This may be another such supposed "breakthrough"…]
 

 

 

RESEARCHERS REPLICATE RECENT STUDIES PRODUCING ETHICAL EMBRYONIC-LIKE STEM CELLS. Scientists at Harvard have replicated two previous studies by scientists in Japan and Wisconsin who turned skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells and avoided the ethical problems normally associated with embryo-destructive stem cell research.

 
Previously in 2007, the Japanese and Wisconsin teams released studies in the medical journals Science and Cell that show how they were able to make adult stem cells revert to their embryonic form.
 
The studies confirm that human skin cells (fibroblasts) can be used to make pluripotent stem cells sharing essentially all the features of human embryonic stem cells, but without the ethical issues.
 
The Harvard team published its findings in the latest issue of the medical journal Nature and they say the new approach is not a fluke but a legitimate method which should soon make embryonic stem cell research obsolete.
 
Dr. George Daley of Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston and his colleagues obtained human skin cells from a volunteer, whereas the earlier two teams used commercially-available stem cells. They also used fetal lung and skin cells as well.
 
That may appear to be a small difference but Daley says it’s an important one because it shows how scientists can use the more ethical method to create stem cells tailored for a patient for transplants.
 
"Ours is the only group to go from skin biopsy to cell line," Daley said in a statement.
 
The Daley team is now working to generate more of these induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, to match a variety of diseases, though he says the approach is not yet ready for treatments because it must get past issues of causing cancers or tumors when injected into mice.
 
However, the Harvard team appear

s to have achieved some of the same success as Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University (Japan) in that they found they could generate the iPS cells without the cancer gene called c-Myc that has previously frustrated researchers.

 
Later, Dr. Yamanaka furthered his own research by producing the cells without the cancer gene.
 
Then, scientists at MIT added to the growing list of iPS accomplishments by proving that these cells can be used to successfully treat sickle cell anemia in mice. Researchers had tried the same experiment with cloning and failed.
 
"This is the first evaluation of these cells for therapy," said Dr. Jacob Hanna, who worked on the study with researchers at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research in Cambridge.
 
Rudolf Jaenisch, a member of the Whitehead Institute team, told Reuters, "This demonstrates that iPS cells have the same potential for therapy as embryonic stem cells, without the ethical and practical issues raised in creating embryonic stem cells."
 
Tony Perkins [Family Research Council]: "Researchers are proving that the compatibility of science and ethics continues to be not only the most principled approach but also the most promising," he said. [24Dec07, Ertelt, LifeNews.com, Boston, http://www.lifenews.com/bio2298.html]
 
 
 
 
 
EMBRYONIC STEM CELL ALTERNATIVE RESEARCHER DOES NOT WANT TO DESTROY LIFE.  Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University made international headlines recently when he devised a new process that allows for the creation of embryonic stem cells without the destruction of human life. Now, Yamanaka says he was prompted to search for ethical alternatives by his own conscience.
 
Invited by a friend to take a look at a human embryo — a unique human being — under a microscope, Dr. Yamanaka had a moral spark that changed his career.
 
“When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters,” the father of two told the New York Times today.
 
The glimpse into the beginnings of human life motivated him to seek out alternatives to the destruction of human beings for their stem cells for research.
 
“I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way," he told the newspaper.
 
As LifeNews.com reported last month, Yamanaka and a Wisconsin team, ironically headed by James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who discovered embryonic stem cells, both advanced a process called direct reprogramming.
 
The teams released studies in the medical journals Science and Cell that show how they were able to make adult stem cells revert to their embryonic form.
 
The studies confirm that human skin cells (fibroblasts) can be used to make pluripotent stem cells sharing essentially all the features of human embryonic stem cells.
 
Pro-life groups have welcomed the findings because they represent another alternative to destroying human life to advance science.
 
Ultimately, Dr. Yamanaka says he has to have some reliance on embryonic stem cell research to advance his own work, but he hopes alternatives will eventually outpace the use of human embryos.
 
“There is no way now to get around some use of embryos,” he said. “But my goal is to avoid using them.” [11Dec07, http://www.lifenews.com/bio2295.html, Ertelt, LifeNews.com, Kyoto, Japan]
 
 
 
 
GENETICALLY-RELATED CORD BLOOD STEM CELLS DO BETTER IN PATIENT TRANSPLANTS.  New research presented today at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting shows that using genetically-related cord blood stem cells in transplants increases the chance of success. The study reinforces the idea of parents storing their baby's umbilical cords and blood for use in potential therapies.
 
Jennifer Willert, MD, is the senior attending transplant physician and clinical professor at Rady Children’s Hospital at the University of California, San Diego and the lead author of the study.
 
Her analysis examined processing, storage and transplant recipient data from Cord Blood Registry’s transplant programs.
 
CBR allows parents to preserve their newborn's cord blood stem cells free of charge, for use by a related family member who has been diagnosed with a disease that can be treated with stem cells.
 
From June 1993 to November 2007, CBR released 59 cord blood stem cell units for transplant and physicians conduc

ted the transplant procedures at 26 different transplant centers in 15 states.

 
Requested units were used in transplant for a variety of conditions, including malignant and non-malignant cancers, as well as regenerative medicine therapies to treat anoxic brain injury, cerebral palsy, type I diabetes and a rare immune disorder.
 
The study examined the patient diagnosis, age, weight, HLA-match and cell viability.
 
It found that stem cell transplants from genetically-related sources result in better survival rates than transplants from an unrelated donor. The results also showed they are associated with less frequent and less severe graft-vs.-host disease, a complication that occurs when the donor cells attack different parts of the body.
 
“It is my hope that this published information encourages more physicians on the front lines of maternity care to educate their patients about their cord blood banking options," Dr. Willert said.
 
Joseph Rosenthal, MD, Director, Pediatric Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation, City of Hope, said in a press statement to LifeNews.com that, “This analysis confirms that patients who have access to a readily available source of autologous or related allogeneic cord blood stem cells have a better chance of securing a suitable donor match." [9Dec07, Ertelt, LifeNews.com, Atlanta, GA, http://www.lifenews.com/bio2294.html]
 
 
 
ADULT STEM CELLS APPEAR TO BE WORKING AS TREATMENT FOR HEART DISEASE. A medical team at Osaka University Hospital has succeeded in restoring function to the heart of a patient with severe cardiac disease using muscle cells taken from one of the patient's thighs, it has been learned.
 
    The male patient in his 50s, who had been waiting for a heart transplant, is now able to walk unaided, and will leave the hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on 20Dec07, according to the hospital… "The treatment can be a good alternative to heart transplants," said Yoshiki Sawa, director of the Medical Center for Translational Research at the hospital…
 
In the treatment, the team first removed about 10 grams of muscle tissue from the patient's thigh. From the muscle tissue, it then extracted myoblast cells, which are the main building block of muscle fibers. The team cultivated the cells and formed them into sheets about four centimeters wide. They then wrapped the diseased heart with three layers of the myoblast sheets.
 
The treatment was approved in July 2006 by the hospital's ethics committee as part of clinical research into dilated cardiomyopathy–a disease in which the heart becomes swollen and unable to pump blood efficiently.
 
The male patient began suffering from the disease around 2004, and was hospitalized in January 2006. Despite being fitted with a pacemaker the following month, he continued to suffer serious symptoms.
 
The patient registered with the Japan Organ Transplant Network in August 2006, and had been waiting for a heart transplant.
 
    The medical team took the myoblast cells [a form of stem cell] from the patient at the end of March this year, and then spent two months creating 25 myoblast sheets. At the end of May, the team attached the sheets to the patient's heart, mainly around the organ's left ventricle, which is key to circulation.
 
    After the treatment, the patient's heart functions, including pulse rate and quantity of blood pumped, all improved rapidly. On Sept. 5, or 98 days after the treatment, it became possible to remove the pacemaker.
 
According to the hospital, the man's heart functions have almost fully recovered, and he is able to lead a normal daily life. "The myoblast sheets were not transformed into heart muscle, but they apparently released substances that assist the functioning of weakened heart muscles. We'd like to conduct further research on the treatment so we can apply the method to other cardiac diseases and to some children's conditions," Sawa said.
[16Dec07, Osaka, http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20071216TDY02303.htm; http://www.wesleyjsmith.com/blog/2007/12/adult-stem-cells-appear-to-be-working.html, 16Dec07]
 
 
 
 

 
 
ADULT STEM CELLS MAY HOLD KEY TO ETHICAL HEART TRANSPLANTS: MICE HEARTS REMADE WITH ADULT STEM CELLS VISIBLY BEATING AFTER 8 DAYS. Scientists have created a beating heart using laboratory techniques that involve adult stem cells and that could revolutionize organ donation.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota reported their findings at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. The highly experimental procedure involved removing all the cells from a rat's dead heart, and using its protein blueprint as a guide for live adult stem cells seeded on the old heart.

"We took nature's building blocks to build a new organ," said Harald Ott, who worked on the project. "When we saw the first contractions we were speechless."

The ethical questions concerning heart donation could be completely sidestepped by such a process. Furthermore a new heart, grown in this way, would not be rejected by the patient's immune system, which is a common problem with organ transplants.

The procedure, however, is still in an experimental state, and it will probably be years before it can be tried on humans. Professor Doris Taylor, director of the University of Minnesota's center for cardiovascular repair, is very hopeful that this new breakthrough is a significant step towards the ability to create custom-built hearts as well as other organs.

"The idea would be to develop transplantable blood vessels or whole organs that are made from your own cells," Taylor said. "It opens a door to the notion that you can make any organ – kidney, liver or pancreas. You name it and we hope we can make it. This is a proof of concept. Going forward, our goal is to use a patient's stem cells to build a new heart."

Adult stem cells have led to many breakthroughs in medical science in recent years, in stark contrast to the lack of progress with ethically unacceptable embryonic stem cell research. Adult stem cells may be used to treat everything from heart attacks to damaged
teeth. Many experimental projects have shown and are increasingly showing great promise for use of adult stem cells on human subjects.

Coverage:

Adult Stem Cells Successfully Regenerate Pig Teeth, New Study Finds
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07010502.html

Adult Stem Cells Used to Treat Emergency Heart Attack Patients
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2006/nov/06110809.html

Success Stories with Adult Stem Cells Coming in Almost Too Fast to Track
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/jan/05012007.html

Adult Stem Cell Discoveries Could Treat Alzheimer's and Blindness
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2005/feb/05021405.html
[14Jan2008, John Connolly, Orlando, FL, LifeSiteNews.com]