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Wharton’s Jelly Holds Very Pluripotent Cells

Ethical Alternative for Obtaining Embryonic-LIKE Stem Cells Gains Support

Japanese Scientists Cure Renal Failure with Adult Stem Cells

Adult Stem Cell Research Quietly Progressing

Boston Doctor Uses Stem Cells from Amniotic Fluid to Repair Birth Defects

For past Stem Cell Research headlines, click here.

WHARTON’S JELLY HOLDS VERY PLURIPOTENT CELLS – Dr. Curtis Cetrulo of Tufts University reported at the January 2005 AAPLOG meeting in Tampa that very early “Jell Cells” which had migrated to the placenta & then to the embryonic liver to set up blood production get stuck in the Wharton’s Jelly of the umbilical cord [Day 13.5], and so are “frozen in time”, retaining their very pluripotent – possibly totipotent – status. Using these cells in conjunction with umbilical cord blood stem cells, should produce a “dynamite” therapy combo.

ETHICAL ALTERNATIVE FOR OBTAINING EMBRYONIC-LIKE STEM CELLS GAINS SUPPORT – a group of influential scientists and ethicists have proposed an ethical way to produce morally acceptable embryo-like stem cells. A new proposal for obtaining embryonic-like stem cells has received the backing of a number of influential scientists and ethicists who are opposed to embryo-destructive research.

They say the method, if successful, would bypass the creation of an embryo and would go straight to creating the stem cells themselves. The proposal could serve as an answer to the demands of those in the scientific community who have touted embryonic stem cells as a potentially revolutionary cure for a bevy of diseases while also answering the concerns of those who oppose embryo destructive research.  

Thirty-five scientists and ethicists signed on to a joint statement about the proposed method known as oocyte assisted reprogramming (OAR).

OAR is a form of altered nuclear transfer (ANT), a method of obtaining the “blank cells” known as pluripotent stem cells that was proposed by Dr. William Hurlbut of Stanford late last year and presented to the President’s Council on Bioethics. ANT was the subject of much controversy in conservative circles because some thought it would result in the creation and destruction of deformed embryos. 

OAR differs from the original ANT proposal because it is believed that pluripotent cells could be produced directly without an embryo being created and destroyed in the process. “The method of alteration here proposed . . .  would immediately produce a cell with positive characteristics and a type of organization that from the beginning would be clearly and unambiguously distinct from, and incompatible with, those of an embryo. Incapable of being or becoming an embryo, the cell produced would itself be a pluripotent cell that could be cultured to establish a pluripotent stem cell line.”

The proposal was generated to meet the objections of scientists and moralists that the original Hurlbut proposal would create an embryo that would then be destroyed.  

The joint statement makes it clear that the signatories are only supporting research on animals and that only if “such research establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that oocyte assisted reprogramming can reliably be used to produce pluripotent stem cells without creating embryos, would we support research on human cells.” 

It is expected in the coming weeks that the National Institutes for Health will announce that it is soliciting proposals for research into OAR.

It should be noted that after decades of research there have been no successful medical treatments using embryo-destructive stem cells but by contrast, there have been numerous successes in medical treatment from readily available adult stem cells. The Culture of Life Foundation categorically rejects any form of research that destroys a human embryo.

Read the report at the President’s Council on Bioethics  website:
 Culture of Life Foundation (202) 289-2500 Culture & Cosmos Volume 2 Number 48, July 6, 2005]

[ed. Whether OAR is necessary, considering the tremendous strides being made in research and actual treatment using adult, placental, and umbilical cord blood stem cells, still remains to be determined.]

JAPANESE SCIENTISTS CURE RENAL FAILURE WITH ADULT STEM CELLS — Scientists in Japan have been able to cure renal failure in rats with adult stem cells taken from kidneys of healthy rats. They say the same process should be able to work in humans.

The University of Tokyo research team transplanted somatic(adult) stem cells from the healthy rats. Such cells are able to develop into a variety of cells in that specific organ. The team announced their findings in the June 20 issue of the U.S. science magazine, “Journal of Cell Biology.”

The doctors involved in the research say that the possibility is strong that the same process can help humans with renal failure because human kidneys have similar somatic stem cells. “It’s been confirmed that somatic stem cells in kidneys are capable of not only creating new cells but also restoring damaged organs. We may be able to develop drugs aimed at (activating) somatic stem cells,” said University of Tokyo Associate Prof. Keiichi Hishikawa.

The research team identified the cells and confirmed that they exist in a part of the rat kidney called the stroma. The cells are also able to develop into blood vessels and renal tubules. The team transplanted 10,000 cells into the kidneys of rats with renal failure and tests seven days later found that the kidney functions returned to normal. [Tokyo, Japan,]


BOSTON DOCTOR USES STEM CELLS FROM AMNIOTIC FLUID TO REPAIR BIRTH DEFECTS – Amniotic fluid, like umbilical cord blood, has been discovered to contain stem cells that could be used to repair severe birth defects. Dr. Dario Fauza [Boston’s Children’s Hospital] hopes that his research with stem cells from amniotic fluid will make some surgeries unnecessary. Dr. Fauza admits that there are some risks involved in removing amniotic fluid from the womb. But the amount needed for stem cell collection is very small and the cells can then be used to grow, for instance, cartilage tissue that might be used to repair damaged trachea. [BOSTON, 29April05]

ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH QUIETLY PROGRESSING –As Congress spent hours passionately debating the merits and ethics of embryo-destructive stem cell research, nearly 50 Osiris Therappeutics Inc. employees here continued their quiet work on less controversial adult stem cells. Thanks to Food and Drug Administration [FDA] fast-track designation, Osiris expects to have an adult stem cell-based therapy on the market by late 2007 to combat potentially fatal tissue rejection among leukemia patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.

That’s one of three adult stem cell-based therapies Osiris currently has in human trials, to the delight of investors who muscled their way into the company’s latest funding round to raise $50 million, more than double the expected amount.

Another human clinical trial “squirts” adult stem cells into damaged knees after surgery to regrow meniscus, restoring the tissue that acts as a sh
ock abso
rber and preventing onset of arthritis. The third experimental therapy being tested in humans — including patients here at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine — uses adult stem cells to help replace tissue damaged by heart attacks.

Meanwhile, a University of Pittsburgh researcher is tapping adult stem cells in an FDA-approved, university-financed safety trial to rally these cellular repairmen to help fix failing hearts. “When you inject these cells in, they act like a homing beacon to the heart,” said Dr. Amit Patel, director of the university medical center’s cardiac cell therapy center. “The heart’s just sending out an SOS signal saying ‘Here! Come help me,'” Patel said. The adult stem cells then enlist other cells that deliver building blocks needed to partially restore heart function.

Because the patients in the trial are awaiting heart transplants, Patel and others will be able to study their original heart after transplant to determine the impact of stem cell therapy. [The newest research has also found very pluripotent stem cells in the Wharton’s Jelly of the umbilical cord itself. These cells apparently get stuck in the Wharton’s Jelly at about Day 13.5 after fertilization; they appear to be almost “totipotent”, that is, totally capable of being coaxed into producing almost any cell type. Dr. Curtis Cetrulo, AAPLOG mtg, 1/05]

To Wall Street…non-embryonic stem cell therapies, within a decade, stand a chance of producing earnings for investors. Embryonic stem cells, however, possess only therapeutic potential, & research remains controversial — and minimally funded [$39 million is minimal?] by the federal government–because current techniques destroy human embryos as stem cells are extracted. [Boston Globe, 20June05; from AAPLOG]
David Stevens, MD [CMDA Exec Dir]: “Note that tech investors are pouring money into adult stem cell research because they know what most reporters have failed to grasp. Embryonic stem cell salesman (Oops! I mean researchers) have little to show for the millions of dollars and seven years that have gone into their research. Adult stem cell research is already providing real cures for real patients.”

This article minimizes the $39 million that the U.S. government poured into embryonic stem cell research and fails to note that the state of California is putting more money into ESC research, $300 million a year, than the federal government put into the Human Genome project over a 10-year period. Adults stem cells are already being used to provide treatment for 58 different diseases.

Phase I and Phase II human trials are already underway using umbilical or bone marrow stem cells to treat the very diseases that ESC proponents tout they will someday be able to cure. Even laying the moral issue aside of destroying embryos, it just makes plain sense to put our research dollars into areas that will get the cures for our patients the fastest.[DeCook, AAPLOG, 23June05]