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Pharmaceutical Scientists Promote Adult Stem Cells as Successful Therapies Without Controversy

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

Adult Stem Cells Used to Cure Blindness

South Korean Scientist Helps 64 Patients Finds Success With Adult Stem Cells

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PHARMACEUTICAL SCIENTISTS BOAST ON ADULT STEM CELLS: “THERAPIES WITHOUT CONTROVERSY” – The use of adult stem cells promises to grow as the controversy over the use of human embryo-destructive stem cells remains a hotbed political, ethical and religious issue.

At the June 2005 Amer Assoc of Pharmaceutical Scientists’ (AAPS) National Biotechnology Conference [San Francisco], embryo-destructive and adult-derived stem cells will take center stage as the nation’s leading scientists discuss how their research can be immediately applied to create therapies for cancer, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, neuro-degenerative disorders, cystic fibrosis, and bone injuries.

As the nation continues to debate the ethics and efficacy of using human embryonic stem cells, scientists will demonstrate how the use of adult stem cells has opened the door to groundbreaking therapies including the use of muscle stem cells for arthritis and umbilical cord blood for leukemia.

“Since the first bone marrow transplant was carried out more than 30 years ago, non-embryonic stem cells have been used effectively to benefit and save thousands of lives,” said Gary S. Friedman, M.D., F.A.C.P. [dir, Ctr for Regenerative Medicine, Morristown, NJ].

“While embryonic stem cells are a source of controversy and uncertainty, adult-derived stem cells are already being used to successfully treat cancer, anemia and connective tissue diseases.” 

The application of non-embryonic stem cells will be highlighted as J Huard, Ph.D. [Univ of Pittsburgh School of Medicine] reveals that his team has recently discovered a unique population of muscle-derived stem cells that offer the potential of regenerating tissue. The discovery of these cells will benefit patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, arthritis, and joint injuries.

Huard: “Transplant of muscle-derived stem cells has improved the efficiency of dystrophic muscle regeneration…We are excited to continue testing this technology and hopefully improve the lives of people with damaged or diseased tissues.” 

The use of non-embryonic stem cells will also be the focus as Philip A. Lowry, M.D. [assoc prof, Hematology/Oncology, Univ of MA] discusses the use of umbilical cord blood to treat leukemia.

While bone marrow transplant has been a common treatment of leukemia for almost 4 decades, Dr. Lowry will present how transplanting umbilical cord blood can offer the same benefits with greater access and availability.  Lowry: “New types of stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine can potentially provide treatments for a wider variety of diseases than traditional bone marrow and organ transplantation methods…The major challenge we’re facing today is the availability of viable cell sources we could use to fully research these possibilities.”

David V. Schaffer, Ph.D. [assoc prof, Chemical Engineering & Neuroscience, Univ of CA, Berkeley]: “We’re making enormous progress with stem cells. While there are still issues to overcome, non-embryonic stem cells are already yielding results that can impact thousands of lives in the relatively near future.” [emphasis added]

The AAPS National Biotechnology Conference [5-8June] incorporates all aspects of the pharmaceutical sciences and provides an open forum for discussion of hot industry topics. [VA,, 27May05]

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] says that infants are difficult to treat surgically and often suffer from surgery related complications such as life threatening infections. He hopes that his research with stem cells from amniotic fluid will make some surgeries unnecessary.

Fauza: “People always thought that amniotic fluid was just a deposit of dying cells … but that’s not true. They are very vibrant cells.”

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. Some children born with malformed tracheas do not survive surgical attempts to take cartilage tissue from other parts of their bodies. Cartilage grown from stem cells would also be proof against immune system rejection.

Dr. Fauza also works with fetal tissue that is taken in a minimally invasive procedure from a pre-born child with a birth defect like spina bifida. The cells are cultivated and new tissue can be grown ready for surgery immediately after birth. [BOSTON, 29April05]

ADULT STEM CELLS USED TO CURE BLINDNESS – UK physicians are pioneering the use of adult stem cells to cure blindness resulting from a damaged cornea – so far, they have used the therapy to restore eyesight in 40 patients

Although corneal transplants have been used to treat the condition for some time, “Even if we do a corneal transplant, that will not stay clear, it’ll cloud over and fail,” Dr. Sheraz Daya [Opthalmic surgeon, Queen Victoria Hospital, East Sussex] said. “So what we need to do is replace those stem cells that are missing.”

Doctors use the patient’s own stem cells or those from a donor to re-grow the cornea – the transparent part that makes up the front surface of the eye. [Related report, including testimony of a young mother whose sight was restored:, LONDON, 29April05]


SOUTH KOREAN SCIENTIST FINDS SUCCESS WITH ADULT STEM CELLS — Although scientist Hwang Woo-suk is drawing the world’s attention over his human cloning efforts to produce embryos to destroy for research, the use of adult stem cells in the Asian country are enjoying the most success.

Despite the hype over the embryonic stem cells, which Hwang admits are nowhere ready to treat patients, orthopedist Han Chang-whan at St. Mary’s Hospital in Daejeon is treating patients with adult stem cells and seeing tremendous results.

Chang-whan injected 74 patients with adult stem cells. Five had cerebral infarction, 23 had Buerger’s disease (a disorder of the blood vessels at the hands or feet), 11 had femur head avascular necrosis
(a disease resulting from the temporary or permanent loss of the blood supply to the bones in upper legs), and 35 suffered from nonunion of bone fractures.

In the study, 64 of the patients are showing significant improvement without any negative side effects.

Chang-whan told the Korea Herald that 21 of 23 patients with Buerger’s disease saw vast improvements than
ks to
the adult stem cells. For the patients with cerebral infarction, 3 of the 5 showed improvement, 7 improved of 11 afflictaed with femur head avascular necrosis, and 33 of 35 patients with nonunion of bone fractures were
successful cases.

Ji Kyung-tae, a patient with Buerger’s disease, told the Herald that he didn’t mind the couple of shots in the back of his calves. “But in 6-7 months time, I could feel my leg becoming stronger and healthier again,” he said. Ji hopes other patients will be able to experience the same “miracle.” [Seoul, South Korea,, 10June05; Dr. Joe DeCook/aaplog, 10June05]