- An Ethically Neutral Source of Stem Cells
The author, an oncologist-hematologist (clinical research & dev’t in blood / marrow transplants, which use cord blood, pediatric or adult human stem cells to restore bone marrow function after aggressive chemotherapy in cancer treatment) suggests: "As embryonic human stem cells derived from fertilization procedures induce ethical concerns, a third option requires attention. Embryonic human stem cells used for research in other countries are frequently derived from spontaneous abortion products [i.e. from miscarriages]. Approximately 10% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion before the 16th week of gestation; this percentage is reduced to 1 percent after the 16th week of gestation. Establishment of programs to capture this naturally available embryonic human stem cell product could resolve the shortage and prevent disputes about the source of embryonic human stem cells. [M. E. Van Hoef , Falls Church, The Wash Post,5Sept01]
Human Embryo Stem Cell Research
- HUMAN EMBRYO STEM CELL RESEARCH NOT YET BOOMING One year after President Bush "resolved" the dilemma of federal funding of human embryo cell research, the research boom that scientists hoped would follow has yet to materialize. In his address on 9Aug01, the president said the new policy, allowing limited federal funding, would give scientists access to more than 60 different colonies of precious human embryonic cells. Twelve months later, only three colonies of embryo cells are readily available to researchers. Moreover, only nine research laboratories applied for the first round of federal grants — evidence, some say, of a "chilling effect" from the lingering political controversy over embryo research. [washingtonpost.com; 6Aug02 http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A47886-2002Aug5?language=printer
- DR. JOHN GEARHART (Johns Hopkins Univ) gained int’l recognition 4 years ago when he first extracted pluripotent stem cells from aborted babies. He is now quoted as stating that adult stem cell technology may have greater therapeutic potential than embryonic stem cells. While this has been admitted by everyone but the most dedicated pro-abortion advocates, it is an important statement coming from him. [Society for the protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), 11/02 newsletter; Cincinnati Rt to Life, 2/03]
Adult Stem Cell Research
These items represent research without the use of human embryonic stem cells:
- RESEARCH SHOWS BONE MARROW CELLS AS EFFECTIVE AS EMBRYONIC — Adult bone marrow cells can fuse with specialized brain cells, possibly bolstering the brain cells or repairing damage, according to research from the Stanford Univ School of Medicine. This finding helps resolve an ongoing debate: Do adult stem cells transform bone marrow cells into other cell types, such as brain, muscle or liver cells, or do they fuse with those cells to form a single entity with two nuclei? David Stevens, MD, exec dir of the Christian Medical Association says that other studies suggest that something in the damaged organ triggers adult stem cells to begin the repair process. "The more important point is that adult/umbilical cord cell transplants work," Stevens said. [Stanford, CA; http://www.lifenews.com/bio91.html, lifenews.com, 18Oct03] http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=24499
- ADULT STEM CELLS– NOT FETAL CELLS– SHOW MEDICAL PROMISE — Evidence continues to mount that medical techniques using adult stem cells show greater promise in treating diseases than techniques using stem cells extracted from destroyed human embryos.
Researchers [European Society of Cardiology, Vienna meeting] report success in their experimental adult stem-cell treatments of heart disease patients. The scientists injected adult stem cells that had been extracted from the patients’ own bone marrow into the patients' hearts. The stem cells then helped to regenerate damaged heart tissue. One researcher stated that 4 of his 5 patients "had such a marked improvement in blood supply after stem-cell treatment that they were
removed from the list of those needing a heart transplant." Another scientist: "This is the first approach where you have an opportunity to actually heal a heart." A study just published [Nature Medicine] provides additional confirmation that adult bone marrow stem cells can work wonders on damaged or diseased hearts. The researchers utilized stem cells from the bone marrow of rats and genetically modified the cells to survive longer than usual. They injected the cells into the hearts of rats that had heart attacks and found that the adult bone marrow stem cells restored 80 to 90 percent of the hearts' volume, and completely normalized the contracting functions of the heart.
At the same time, research using stem cells extracted from embryonic/fetal tissue has been largely unsuccessful, even damaging to patients. A study just released in the scientific journal Annals of Neurology reports that recent experiments in treating Parkinson's disease by using brain cells taken from aborted fetuses have failed. After the fetal cells were injected into the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease, 56% of the patients developed unanticipated dyskinesia, a condition involving potentially disabling repetitive movements. In 3 of the patients, the dyskinesia was "disabling, necessitating a surgical intervention when the study was completed." The authors of the study concluded that they could not recommend fetal brain-cell transplantation as a therapy for Parkinson's disease at this time, although they called for continued experimentation using cells derived from aborted fetuses. These results mirror the results of a March 2001 study from the New England Journal of Medicine. In that study, cells from human embryos and fetuses were injected into the brains of Parkinson's patients. A number of the patients later experienced severe uncontrollable
movements, like jerking of their heads and swinging or writhing of their arms.
As competition continues over limited research grants, such reports of experimental failure [embryonic stem cell research] or success [adult stem cells] could prove decisive in funding decisions. [Washington, 3Sep03, Culture & Life Foundation/CWNews.com]
- WHARTON’S JELLY protects blood vessels in the umbilical cord. Researchers suggest that primitive stem cells may settle in the umbilical cord as the embryo develops. These cells "are easily attainable and can be…maintained in culture, and induced to differentiate into neural cells. They are a potential source of multipotent stem cells…it’s almost an inexhaustible source." [Kansas State Univ, Troyer (prof anatomy & physiology); Nat Rt to Life news, 3/03]
- UMBILICAL CORD ADULT STEM CELLS COULD REPAIR STROKE DAMAGE [St. Louis University neurologists, Dr. Yi Pan]. The researchers blocked an artery in the brain of rats to mimic strokes caused by blood clots. After the stroke, the researchers injected stem cells from umbilical cord blood into arteries in the rats' necks. The scientists first cultured the stem cells in laboratory dishes, feeding the cells certain nutrients and growth factors. The treatment produces cells that look like brain cells. After a week, the rats that got stem cell injections could pull tape off their paws about as well as they could before the stroke. Rats that got only a saline solution took nearly three weeks to return to normal. When the researchers examined brains from the rats, they found that most of the stem cells had died, even though the rats had recovered. That could indicate that stem cells produce proteins or hormones that may help heal damaged brain cells or direct neighboring neurons to take over the jobs of dead and dying cells. Pan presented the results of the study 25Mar03 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Honolulu. [St. Louis Post Dispatch; April 2, 2003; [email protected]]
- ILLINOIS LAW WOULD PROMOTE DONATING UMBILICAL CORD BLOOD – The IL House unanimously passed legislation requiring licensed hospitals to notify pregnant women that they have the option. It now heads to the Senate. "Too often women have no idea that they can donate their umbilical cord blood and by virtue of doing so, save thousands of lives," said House sponsor Rep. Leitch (R Peoria). "It is not controversial because the material, the umbilical cord itself, is already only medical waste. It is just being thrown away and so it enjoys the support of advocates across the spectrum." Of the average four million live births in the U.S each year, stem cells are collected in only 1,000 cases. The use of stem cells is the most significant undertaking going on the medical industry today, says Dwight Brunoehler, president of Cryobanks Int’l, a Florida-based company that is the leading stem cell collector in the country. The stem cells in umbilical cord blood can be used for everything from treating cancers and anemia to advancing research into Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). Other research has shown that stem cells can also be used to grow new tissue, including that of heart patients. Umbilical cord blood is more flexible than bone marrow because the umbilical cells aren't as fully developed. Bone marrow must be an absolute match before a transplant can be done, but cord blood need only be a close match to work, Brunoehler said. When mothers decide to simply donate the cord blood, it doesn't cost them anything. The companies collecting the cord blood provide the equipment and pay shipping expenses to get the cord blood within 24 hours. Companies hope to recoup the cost when the stem cells were needed for a transplant or research. Hospitals are beginning to collect cord blood from mothers who want to donate and from those who want to bank it for themselves. Drawing the blood from the umbilical cord is a fairly simple process, taking only about five to seven minutes. If the General Assembly passes the bill and it is signed into law, Illinois would become the first state to do so. [prolifeinfo.org; Daily Journal; 13Apr03]
- MUSCLE (ADULT) STEM CELLS are being used in dozens of patients to help repair damaged heart tissue. The American Heart Assoc (does not fund research using embryonic or aborted stem cells) has funded successful trials in regenerating new heart muscle in 16 U.S. patients, using muscle stem cells from the patients’ own thighs. While these initial trials were intended only to show safety and feasibility, the hearts’ pumping ability improved by an average of 58% in 12 weeks. [Science Daily, 18Nov02; National Rt to Life News, "Good Morality is Good Medicine," Dec02]
- SPINAL CORD RESTORATION – Dr. Carlos Lima [Lisbon Portugal] has helped restore some functioning in 4 chronic quadriplegic patients with spinal cord injury, by implanting cells from their nasal mucosa into their spinal cords [Spinal Cord Society Newsletter, Nov 02]. An Australian team led by Alam Mackay-Sim of Griffith Univ is also testing use of olfactory ensheathing cells to treat paralysis in several patients. Nerve cells from the nose are especially useful because they routinely regenerate throughout life as old cells are destroyed by infections [New Scientist, 11Jul02; National Rt to Life, "Good Morality is Good Medicine," Dec02]
- ADULT STEM CELLS USED ON STROKES – Scientists [Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Inst] showed with rats that stem cells from adult bone marrow can be split into several cell types in the human central nervous system. There is a growing body of evidence that adult stem cells are more versatile and useful than earlier thought, offering hope that scientists can avoid being caught up in the highly-politicized row over the use of embryonic stem cells. Researcher Doctor John Yu added that other related studies he had carried out had shown that neural stem cells are capable of tracking brain tumour cells as they spread. The finding was significant as one of the key problems doctors face with brain tumours is that diseased cells often separate from the main tumour and spread and transform themselves into secondary malignancies.
[Experimental Neurology, 12/02; AFP, The Age (Australia), 21Dec02
- TRANSPLANTED FETAL CELLS FAIL TO TREAT PARKINSON'S DISEASE, LEAD TO SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS, STUDY SHOWS – A second study of transplanted fetal cells has failed to show a therapeutic benefit in Parkinson's disease patients and produced serious side effects in some patients. The findings are "a blow" to researchers who had thought that transplants of brain tissue from aborted fetuses could stem the effects of the disease. For the study, which involved 34 participants, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and University of South Florida researchers infused brain tissue from ~8 aborted fetuses, ranging from six to nine weeks old, into 23 patients with Parkinson's disease. Brain scans of the participants indicated that the transplanted cells functioned "normally," but researchers were unable to "find any measurable improvement on tests of motor and other skills". In addition, the "most severe setback" was side effects that included uncontrolled limb movement in 13 patients. Three patients experienced such severe side effects that they required additional surgeries to control them. The study — the second of two federally funded studies to examine if fetal cells can repair brain tissue in Parkinson's patients — could lead to a "winding down" for future fetal-cell transplants. Anthony Lang, a Parkinson's expert at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, said, "This is a surprising result that forces reconsideration of transplantation without a great deal more research." Research using fetal cells is covered by a separate rule established in 1993 under Clinton, and Congress passed legislation to ensure that women are not "paid or induced to have abortions to provide tissue" for the research. [Wall Street Journal, 12/3; Kaiser Daily Reprod Report (not pro-life). 12/3/02]
- HUMAN KIDNEYS GROWN IN MICE – The mice were injected with pig and human fetal cells which grew into fully-functional kidneys. The technique could offer a more practical way of helping patients who need organ transplants. Thousands in the UK alone are on the waiting list for a new kidney. Researchers achieved the same effect with pig embryo cells.
The advance, by doctors at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, was reported in the latest edition of Nature Medicine. The technique works because cells were taken from the aborted foetuses aged between seven and eight weeks, and from pig foetuses which are only four weeks old. Both porcine (pig) and human versions of these cells were taken and transplanted into mice. Both types developed into perfect organs at an appropriate size for a mouse. They produced urine and were supplied with blood by vessels from the host. While there is growing support for the use of pig organs in transplantation, some experts still believe there is a risk that previously unknown viruses could pass into humans and cause illness. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2595397.stm; BBC, 23 Dec02, GMT]
- PROCTOR & GAMBLE CONSIDERS EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH – Company spokesman Terry Loftus said that although they are not currently doing ESCR, they are considering it if it is deemed as the only feasible means to get significant health care benefits. Procter & Gamble Company, 1 Procter & Gamble Plaza, Cincinnati, OH 45201; 1-513-983-1100. [cogforlife, Action Alert ID6,9Dec02]
- US SCIENTISTS HAVE GROWN TEETH from animal adult stem cells. Researchers at the Forsyth Institute, (Boston) took cells from adult pigs and cultured them inside the abdomens of rats, which resulted in recognizable tooth crowns containing enamel and dentin. The research was published in the Journal of Dental Research. Adult stem cell therapies offer an ethical & rapidly-advancing alternative to research on human embryos. [Daily Mail, 28 Sep; SPUC News, 1Oct02, NV, 3Oct02]
- DOCTOR HAILS ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH BREAKTHROUGHS –Joseph Iannotti, MD, chairman, Cleveland Clinic Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery: "Adult stem cells have not only proven to be effective in bone healing today, they hold great promise for the future of orthopaedics – especially in the areas of reconstructing all types of tissues, as well as improving the healing of diseased tissues." [Amer Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Ortho Update 2002 Web conference] Dr. Iannotti explained that mesenchymal stem cells are the type of cells that, depending on the maturation process, can become bone, cartilage, muscle, marrow, tendon/ligament & connective tissue.
These cells are harvested from bone marrow in the pelvis via a syringe. Approximately 100 milliliters of bone marrow fluid when processed will yield 1 table-spoon containing 800 million cells of which 40,000 are mesenchymal stem cells. In addition to non-unions (bone fractures that do not heal), adult stem cells are currently being used to treat a variety of clinical conditions including large segmental defects, bone fractures or wounds that have severe scarring, infections, or avascular tissue with a poor blood supply, and the effects of irradiation & chemotherapy. Recent data analysis shows that in more than 700 patients who underwent an adult stem cell harvesting procedure from the pelvis, there was no complaint of pain and only 2 bruises. Other benefits to the patient of utilizing an adult stem cell procedure include minimal scarring and decreased blood loss. A stem cell can be thought of as a blank slate with the ability to become any type of cell to form skin, bones, organs or other body parts. Adult stem cells, already present in the human body, differ from embryonic stem cells in that they are derived from living bone, tissue, muscle and fat and not from an embryo. Research on human adult stem cells suggests great potential for use in the development of tissue and cartilage regeneration especially in the area of transplantation. [[email protected]; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; 16Oct02]
- ADULT SKIN CELL TRANSFORMATION: [Univ of Oslo & U.S. Nucleotech LLC] turned adult skin cells (fibroblasts) into cells that behave like immune system cells (such as T-cells). They first "punched holes" in the cells using chemicals, and then incubated the cells in a T-cell extract solution. In response, the cells stopped expressing genes that fibroblasts normally express, and started expressing genes usually only active in immune cells (such as genes for the immune system proteins IL-2, IL-7, CD3, CD4). Dr. Philippe Collas (the leader of the team) said, "That’s the beauty of our system—we are not working with embryos or dealing with stem cells at all. You get around all these issues." Making T-cell
s could have immediate applications in treating cancer, because cancer patients often have low T-cell counts; if T-cells can be made from other cells, larger numbers of them could be produced to treat these patients. The T-cells might even be able to be ‘programmed’ to respond to or attack the cancerous cells in their body. "[There could] be a one-day procedure, in principal," researcher James Robl said. "The patient would come in and give a skin biopsy to the lab to reprogram and the day after you could put the cells back into the patient." The scientists were also able to get the fibroblasts to turn into neuron-like cells. After exposure to "neuronal precursor extract," the fibroblasts started expressing a neuronal protein, and began to extend neuron-like outgrowths. Although the skin cells weren’t completely transformed into T-cells or neurons, research can be continued, to see how complete and long-lasting a transformation can be achieved. This discovery might also be helpful for research on making pancreatic cells to treat diabetes, or on making neurons to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or spinal cord injuries. Says Dr. Collas, "The message here is we are developing an entirely new approach to tissue replacement therapy that avoids many of the issues" [related to such methods]. [Hakelien, A., et al,"Reprogramming fibroblasts to express T-cell functions using cell extracts," Nature Biotechnology, May 2002, Vol. 20, No. 5; Pro-Life Infonet 5/1/02 (#2) #2700 (quotes from Reuters, April 30, 2002); Pollack, Andrew, "Method May Transform Cells Without Cloning," New York Times, May 1, 2002]
- SPINAL CORD INJURY Five in every 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from spinal cord injuries. Damaged nerves in the spinal cord usually form a dense scar, making it difficult for nerves to regenerate and cross it. These scars contain certain molecules, including ones called chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPGs). CSPGs inhibit neural growth both in vivo (in live animals and human beings) and in vitro (in lab-grown cells). A bacterial enzyme, chondroitinase ABC (chABC), is able to remove certain parts of the CSPG molecules. In doing this, the inhibitory activity of CSPG can be decreased. A research team made up of scientists from various universities in England recently treated rats that had spinal cord injuries. They delivered the enzyme chABC to the rats’ spinal injuries. They found that in response, a protein known to help regenerate neurons began to be produced in the injured neurons. Also, the treatment promoted the regeneration of neurons in the rats, above and below the spinal injuries. In addition, there was functional recovery of some movement: the disabled rats recovered a regular gait. Says scientist Elizabeth Bradbury, "It shows the cells above the lesion[s] are talking to those below." Such research shows that, to treat spinal cord injury, legitimate & ethical forms of research abound and are making great strides towards treating neuropathies. [Bradbury, E.J., et al, "Chondroitinase ABC promotes functional recovery after spinal cord injury," Nature 416, 636-640 (2002); Pearson, H., "Spinal cord recovery hurdle cleared: Bacterial enzyme chews through nerve growth barrier," Nature "Science Update," 11Apr02; Report 31, 202-289-2500; 17May02, Culture of Life Fdn, [email protected]]
- Multiple Sclerosis successfully treated with Bone Marrow Adult Stem Cells. MS affects a person’s immune cells & degrades their own neurons. Patients can, over time, lose their vision, balance, and the ability to walk. Canadian researchers at Ottawa Hospital have recently developed an experimental treatment using adult stem cells. A Canadian patient was diagnosed with MS six years ago, and underwent the experimental treatment. The doctors first erased her immune system with high doses of chemotherapy (the same types of drugs as sometimes used with leukemia patients). They later injected her with stem cells previously taken from her bone marrow. The doctors "hoped the cells would act as the seeds of a new, and hopefully healthy, immune system." At the six-month mark, on MRI scans, the signs of MS are no longer visible. The research team has successfully transplanted a total of four patients with adult stem cells and they say that they think the process is safe. "In four cases, we’ve had four successful grafts with no evidence of any active disease," says Ottawa Hospital’s Dr. Mark Freeman. Moral avenues of research such as this, that do not employ the killing of human embryos (as in human embryonic stem cell research), should inspire other scientists and doctors. In addition, they uphold the physician’s maxim, "First, do no harm." ["Cdn researchers introduce new treatment for MS", 11Apr02, at http://www.ctvnews.com/content/sitesections/6/857292.asp and "Canadian Researchers Treat MS with Adult Stem Cells, 15Apr02, www.lsn.ca. Culture of Life Fdn, [email protected], Adult Stem Cell Research Breakthrough Bulletin Number 32, 24May02]
- Stem Cell Injection Cures "Bubble Boy" Disease -researchers from Italy and Israel report that 2 children have been cured of a complex form of an inherited immune system disorder (severe combined immunodeficiency disorder, or SCID) by injections of their own bone marrow, which had been genetically altered to contain a missing enzyme gene. Their form of SCID was caused by a gene flaw that blocks production of an enzyme called ADA, which is essential to make disease-fighting immune cells. The children, who were 7 months and 2½ years old when the therapy began, were released with healthy, functioning immune systems between 15 months and 24 months ago. [Science journal; AP- The Dallas Morning News, – 6/28/02; Rep. National Coalition for Life FaxNotes – 2Jul02]
- Bank Your Baby’s Life-Saving Cord Blood – A small plastic pouch filled with less than 100cc of frozen blood taken from the umbilical cord of a newborn baby contains the stem cells that could not only save the life of the baby sometime during his lifetime, but could also save the life of a close family member. In the case of Chris and John Hunt of Libertyville, IL, the frozen blood taken at birth from the umbilical cord of Haley, their seventh child, could be used to save the life of John’s brother, Pat Hunt, if his Hodgkins lymphoma returns. [
Pioneer Press, 5/23/02]
Awareness that cord blood can be collected and preserved as biological insurance against a future serious medical problem has resulted in the establishment of a growing number of cord blood banking and research facilities. Among them ** are:
The Cord Blood Donor Fdn – www.cordblooddonor.org.
The Cord Blood Registry – www.cordblood.com
National Marrow Donor Program www.bonemarrow.org
Viacord – www.viacord.com
Coalition of Americans for Ethical Research – www.stemcellresearch.org
** RNC/Life is not recommending these institutions, but simply making you aware of their existence so that you can do your own research and reach your own conclusions.
- ULTIMATE STEM CELL DISCOVERED — A stem cell has been found in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. It might turn out to be the most important cell ever discovered. Until now, only stem cells from early embryos were thought to have such properties. If the finding is confirmed, it will mean cells from a person’s own body could be turned into all perfectly matched replacement tissues & even organs. Thus, there would be no need for therapeutic cloning, i.e. cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would there be a need for embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to create a "one cell fits all" line that does not trigger immune rejection. The discovery of such versatile adult stem cells will also fan the debate about whether embryonic stem cell research is justified. "The work is very exciting," says Ihor Lemischka of Princeton University. "They can differentiate into pretty much everything that an embryonic stem cell can differentiate into." The cells were found in the bone marrow of adults by Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota. A patent application seen by New Scientist shows the team has carried out extensive experiments which confirm that the "multipotent adult progenitor cells", or MAPCs – have the same potential as ESCs. At least two other labs claim to have found similar cells in mice, and one biotech company, MorphoGen Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, says it has found them in skin and muscle as well as human bone marrow. But Verfaillie's team appears to be the first to carry out the key experiments needed to back up the claim that these adult stem cells are as versatile as ESCs. Verfaillie says her lab has reliably isolated the cells from about 70 per cent of the 100 or so human volunteers who donated marrow samples. The cells seem to grow indefinitely in culture, like ESCs. Some cell lines have been growing for almost two years and have kept their characteristics, with no signs of aging, she says. Crucially, using a technique called retroviral marking, Verfaillie has shown that the descendants of a single cell can turn into all these different cell types – a key experiment in proving that MAPCs are truly versatile. Also, Verfaillie's group has done the tests that are perhaps the standard in assessing a cell's plasticity. She placed single MAPCs from humans and mice into very early mouse embryos. Analyses of mice born after the experiment reveals that a single MAPC can contribute to all the body's tissues. MAPCs have many of the properties of ESCs, but unlike ESCs, they do not seem to form cancerous masses if you inject them into adults. Verfaillie's findings also raise questions about the nature of stem cells. Her team thinks that MAPCs are rare cells present in the bone marrow that can be fished out through a series of enriching steps. But others think the selection process actually creates the MAPCs.
[www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991826; 23Jan02, New Scientist; S.P.Westphal, Boston; ProLife e-News]
- ADULT STEM CELL TRANSPLANTS HELP CHILDREN WITH SEVERE COMBINED IMMUNODEFICIENCY (SCID) (Duke University) SCID is an immune disorder which leaves the child extremely vulnerable to opportunistic infections. If the disorder is detected early enough (which can be done with a simple blood test shortly after birth), a stem cell transplant can be performed. Stem cell transplants performed within the first 28 days after birth on babies with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) have a 95% success rate. A physician removes bone marrow cells from the hip of a closely-matched donor. Certain mature T cells in the donor’s marrow are filtered out; the remaining stem cells are infused into the baby. In effect, the donated stem cells provide the baby with a healthy immune system, which takes over, produces functioning T cells, and protects the baby from infections. Over the past 19 years, the Duke team has performed such transplants on 117 SCID patients. Of the 21 babies who received their transplants within 28 days after birth, 20 are still alive and leading normal lives. For the 96 babies who received transplants more than 28 days after birth, the survival rate was 73%. [www.scie
ncedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020129074637.htm/ http://news.mc.duke.edu/news/article.php?id=5258 and Myers, et al., "Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for severe combined immunodeficiency in the neonatal period leads to superior thymic output and improved survival," Blood, Feb. 1, 2002, Vol. 99, No. 3, pp. 872-878]
- Kidney Transplantation — (University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute) blood stem cells were infused into a kidney transplant patient, to eventually wean the patient off immunosuppressive drugs. The stem cell infusion procedure is called "peripheral blood stem cell transplantation." It involves collecting blood from a donor, collecting the stem cells from the blood, and returning the rest of the blood to the donor.
Then the collected stem cells are infused into the kidney transplant recipient, subsequent to the organ transplant operation. With this patient, the kidney & blood stem cells came from the same living donor. The idea is that the infusion of the stem cells will enhance the ability of the recipient’s immune system to cope with the introduction of a foreign organ. Usually, strong immunosuppressive drugs (which can cause serious side effects such as tumor growth or increased susceptibility to infections) must be given to transplant recipients, to fight the body’s natural response against the new organ. A different version of treatment of a recipient with donor cell infusions has been used with liver transplant patients, where bone marrow cells instead of blood stem cells were infused into the liver recipient. Most of the liver transplant patients were able to be partially weaned off immunosuppressive drugs because of these infusions. The hope is that the stem cell infusions can help kidney transplant patients in the same way, "which would be a significant feat because most kidney transplant patients eventually develop chronic rejection, necessitating for some a return to dialysis or retrans-plantation," said Dr. Shapiro, the donor’s surgeon in this case. [www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/02/020205075923.htm and www.upmc.edu/newsbureau/tx/kidney_ld.htm; Culture of Life Fdn, 8Feb02]
- Common Antibiotic As Potential Treatment For Multiple Sclerosis (& possibly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s)– Researchers at University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine & Max Planck Institute for Neurobiology in Germany have found that "minocycline," a common antibiotic used to treat infections in humans, could be helpful in treating multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a devastating disease of the brain and spinal cord that is characterized by inflammation and loss of the myelin sheaths that surround nerve fibers. The fibers become scarred due to progressive, relapsing inflammatory episodes, and symptoms include weakness, incoordination, and tremors. The scientists tested the drug in rats with "autoimmune encephalomyelitis," a condition that mimics MS in humans.
The treated rats "did not develop neurologic dysfunction or had a less severe course [of the disease] than untreated rats." The scientists showed that they could treat the rats successfully "either before or after the onset of the disease." In the context of the human disease, this would mean that "the drug could be given when patients start to show signs of neurologic illness to forestall… [their] inflammatory episodes, or prior to a potential relapse." They believe that the drug is acting "at many levels," but that it is primarily acting as an anti-inflammatory compound, and "inhibits the inflammatory cascade in the central nervous system (CNS), particularly the activation of a cell known as a microglial cell." Microglial cells are immune cells that reside in the CNS; it is believed that their over-activation can contribute to the worsening of diseases such as MS and Alzheimer’s disease. Ian Duncan, senior author, noted: "If we are correct that it is targeting microglial cells, then this raises the possibility that the drug or compounds with similar actions could be used in other neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease where microglial activation may be the common final pathway in neuron loss." The drug will be tested next year in humans in a clinical trial in MS patients at the University of Calgary. The fact that a common antibiotic could be used to treat a disease of the central nervous system shows that promising moral research paths exist right under our noses. There is no need to perform research on human embryonic stem cells, which involves the destruction of human life.
[ (1) Popovic, Natalija, "Inhibition of autoimmune encephalomyelitis by a tetracycline," Annals of Neurology, Published online on Dec. 21, 2001, DOI:10.1002/ana.10092,www3interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/89011293/START; (2) unisci.com/stories/20021/0103024.htm; (3) www.news.wisc.edu/releases/view.html?id=6932; (4) Hensyl, William (editor), Melloni’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 1985; Bulletin No. 23, 11Jan02, Culture of Life Fdn, DC [email protected]]
- Researchers Correct Sickle Cell Disease in Mice Using Gene Therapy — Sickle cell anemia is a disease affecting about 1 in 500 African Americans and 1 in 1,000 Hispanic Americans today. It is characterized by the presence of an abnormal hemoglobin molecule within red blood cells. The malformation of this molecule causes the shape of the red blood cells themselves to change to a form resembling a sickle. The cells also become rigid and adhesive, and thereby cause blockages and organ damage. Other symptoms of the disease includ
e excruciating pain, anemia, and strokes. Currently, the only cure for sickle cell anemia is matched bone marrow transplantation (only 18% of children can find such a match).
For the rest of the children with the disease, and for adults with it, treatments include blood transfusions and use of drugs to lessen pain and other symptoms. A recent study headed by Philippe Leboulch (assist prof of medicine at Harvard Medical School and MIT) first selected certain mice to use which had been genetically-engineered to have "sickle cell disease" (SCD). The scientists removed some of the defective bone marrow from some of the mice. Then they combined the defective bone marrow with a "viral vector" (an inactivated virus whose purpose is to carry corrective genes into the defective cells; the one in this study was similar to HIV, but altered so that it wouldn’t replicate). This viral vector had been engineered to contain a gene to correct the sickle cell disease (an "anti-sickling gene"). They put the "corrected" bone marrow into other SCD mice whose bone marrow had been depleted via irradiation.
The mice with transplanted, corrected bone marrow showed expression of the anti-sickling gene 10 months after the bone marrow transplantations, in up to 99% of their circulating red blood cells. There was also a dramatic decrease in the proportion of irreversibly sickled cells, & a correction of splenomegaly (enlarged spleen). [(1) Pawliuk, et al; "Correction of Sickle Cell Disease in Transgenic Mouse Models by Gene Therapy;" Science; 14 December 2001; Vol. 294; pp. 2368-2371; and (2) National Institutes of Health News Release, Dec. 13, 2001 (www.nhlbi.nih.gov or National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Communications Office: 301-496-4236); and (3) Pro-Life Infonet 12/14/01, #2585 [cites Associated Press Dec. 13, 2001]); Culture of Life Fdn, No. 21 202-638-5500; Wash, 21Dec01]
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Appears to regenerate joint tissues and retard cartilage damage.
[Dr. Barry Arthritis Research Osiris Therapeutics Inc in Baltimore et al, Arthritis and Rheumatism, Dec2003; LifeNews.com, 28Jan04]