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Adult Stem Cell Research Shows Strong Results for Diabetes Patients

Clinical Trial to Test Ethical Stem Cells for Pediatric Brain Injuries

Putting Adult Stem Cells in Failing Hearts

Cells from Aborted Babies Transplanted into Brains of Huntington’s Patients

ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH SHOWS STRONG RESULTS FOR DIABETES PATIENTS. Yet another treatment for diabetes is showing promising results, without the use of embryonic stem cells. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have successfully used islet cells from pigs to reverse the course of diabetes in monkeys.

While the technique remains experimental, farms are already being created to raise specially bred pigs for clinical trials. “This is a very critical milestone in our ability to provide tissue for transplants on an unlimited basis,” said Dr. Bernhard Hering, lead investigator of the research. To date, no clinical trials for embryonic stem cell research have been performed on humans, as no proof of their benefit has been discovered. [, 5Mar06]

CLINICAL TRIAL TO TEST ETHICAL STEM CELLS FOR PEDIATRIC BRAIN INJURIES. A study to examine stem cell therapy to treat children’s brain injuries will begin this year at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital in Houston.

Researchers will assess the safety and potential of treating traumatic brain injuries in children with stem cells derived from the children’s own bone marrow. This study is the first to test stem cell therapy for traumatic brain injury, the scientists said.

The phase I clinical trial of 10 patients, ages 5 to 14, will build on previous laboratory and animal research that indicated that bone marrow-derived stem cells can migrate to an injured area of the brain, develop into new neurons and support cells, and stimulate brain repair, the researchers said.

“This would be an absolutely novel treatment, the first ever with potential to repair a traumatically damaged brain,” co-principal investigator Dr. James Baumgartner, associate professor of pediatric neurosurgery, said in a prepared statement.

The bone marrow stem cells will be processed and injected into the children within 48 hours of their injury. The children’s brain function will be evaluated at one month and six months after the procedure to assess improvements.

Currently, there is no way to repair traumatic brain injury. Doctors can only try to prevent secondary damage by relieving pressure on the brain caused by the initial injury. Being able to provide even marginal repair could prove a major benefit for brain injury patients, the researchers said.

“It could be the difference between being able to recognize your loved ones and not being able to, or between doing things for yourself or having to rely on others. That would be a huge impact on families and on society,” principal investigator Dr. Charles Cox, professor of pediatric surgery and trauma, said in a prepared statement. [, 28Dec05 HealthDay News; The American Academy of Neurology has more about brain injury; ScoutNews, LLC]

PUTTING ADULT STEM CELLS IN FAILING HEARTS. After 61 years of pumping blood, Marie Carty’s heart was failing her. Although Carty knew she needed a new heart, she was afraid hers wouldn’t last during the long wait for a transplant. Desperate for an alternative, Carty found the Israeli-Thai company Theravitae, which has begun performing an experimental procedure that multiplies stem cells taken from a patient’s own blood and injects them into the ailing heart in hopes of strengthening it.

The procedure performed by Theravitae and a handful of other companies could offer new hope to hundreds of thousands of heart patients around the world.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the procedure for use in the USA, and though doctors hope it can be a substitute for heart transplants, the permanence of the repairs has yet to be ascertained. “It’s too early to know the long-term effects of these types of procedures,” said Dr. Vincent Pompili, director of interventional cardiology at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

Several teams of doctors around the world – including at least three in the USA – say they are seeing promising results in similar trials using stem cells extracted from bone marrow.

Proponents of Theravitae’s newer procedure say it is simpler and less painful to get stem cells from blood than extracting the cells from bone marrow. The procedure involves no risk of rejection since the cells are the patient’s own.

After a two-week trip last fall to Thailand for the operation, Carty is once again walking two miles – and her strengthened heart led doctors to remove her from the transplant list.

“The change is like night and day,” said Carty, who works in property management. “I feel myself again, more energy, more stamina.”

Carty is one of 70 people who have undergone Theravitae’s procedure. All have shown improvement. The list also includes Hawaiian crooner Don Ho, who underwent the operation in early December in Thailand.
“I’m feeling much better and I’m so happy I came up here to do it,” the
75-year-old entertainer said in a statement after the procedure.

Director Fulga said patients who get the procedure are generally heart transplant candidates or people who have undergone bypass surgery without positive results. “We believe that these cells have the capacity of turning into blood vessels,” Fulga said. “The treatment seems to be not only very safe, with no side effects, but also effective because they improve.”

Fulga agrees, however, that with the procedure in trials for less than two years, there is still a lot to learn. For instance, he said, it’s possible that over time the cells that repair the heart could lose their

Fulga said it also is not known exactly how the cells inserted into the heart improve the patient’s condition. But it is believed they help reconstruct blood capillaries and vessels and the heart muscle itself,
capitalizing on the body’s natural healing processes, he said.

The treatment involves withdrawing blood from a patient and placing it in a centrifuge to separate out – by weight and size – a group of cells needed for the procedure. This batch of cells, called VesCell by the company, is composed of stem cells and other cells beneficial to the process.

Fulga and Thai entrepreneur Robert Clark founded Theravitae in 2003.
Patients travel to Thailand for the extraction of the blood and wait less
than a week while it is sent to Israel. There the stem cells are harvested and expanded and then shipped back to the Thai hospital where the operation to insert them is performed.

The total cost is about $35,000, including airfare and lodging, Fulga said.

Fulga said he expects to meet with FDA officials within six months and hopes to get approval to begin conducting trials in the United States.

Dr. Mark Zucker, director of heart failure and transplantation at Newark
Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey, said therapy using adult stem
cells is the way of the future. His center is considering working with
Theravitae. Zucker said that if doctors at Theravitae have discovered how to make stem cells heal heart tissue, this could be a real solution for tens of thousands of Americans, since only 2,300 hearts become available for transplant in the United States each year.

The company presented its findings at a conference of the American Heart Association in Dallas in November. It has been chosen along with 35 other companies as a technology pioneer for 2006 by the World
Economic Forum.

< P>Pompili, of Case Western Reserve University, said he was working through a company called Arteriocyte on a similar procedure harvesting stem cells from bone marrow. He said his company and two other teams of doctors in the United States were conducting FDA trials using stem cell therapy to heal heart tissue.

[Comment: These adult and umbilical stem cells may provide the final, ethical answer to organ transplantation’s ethical problems like non-heartbeating organ donation. It also does not use embryonic stem cells, an idea that has raised moral objections since they require the destruction of human embryos.
Many scientists believe stem cells could herald a new era of regenerative medicine, leading to cures for conditions from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease. [N Valko RN, 14Feb06; L. Copans, Associated Press 13Feb06, Jerusalem,;_ylt=Am5JFmLrriGJI5HhRIieKnpZ24cA;_ylu=X3oDMTA5aHJvMDdwBHNlYwN5bmNhdA]

CELLS FROM ABORTED BABIES TRANSPLANTED INTO BRAINS OF HUNTINGTON’S PATIENTS. Researchers in France have presented a long-term study of five Huntingdon’s patients who were injected with brain cells harvested from aborted foetuses in 1998. The scientists, reporting in The Lancet; Neurology, say that three of the patients have shown improvement in movement and brain function.

Patients’ symptoms have continued, however and after a plateau, the deterioration has worsened.

Huntington’s Disease is a degenerative genetic neurological disorder. Huntington’s is an incurable and untreatable condition that slowly diminishes the affected individual’s ability to walk, think, talk and reason.

Death for Huntinton’s patients often results from complications such as choking, infection or heart failure.

The French research follows a number of similar experiments being done in the UK. The UK research began human trials in 2001. 

Professor Stephen Dunnett, leader of the British Huntington’s project, told the BBC at the start of the experiment, that the cells used have to come from foetal tissue. “To be effective the cells have to come from the developing brain at exactly the stage of development when cells are first born.”

In 2002, reported that in 15% of patients undergoing transplants of foetal cells to treat their Parkinson’s disease, the result was devastating and irreversible side-effects.

Although the French researchers are not reporting any long-term side effects, some of the US researchers were so horrified by the results they vowed never to try it again. Doctors were unable to predict which patients would suffer the side effects.

In the Parkinson’s experiments, the foetal cells began producing too much dopamine, causing patients to “chew constantly” and “writhe and twist, jerk their heads, fling their arms about.”

Dr. Paul Greene, a neurologist at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said, “No more foetal transplants. We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that this should be considered for research only. And whether it should be researched in people is an open question.”

Mark Crutcher, a US lawyer who has worked to stop the trade in aborted babies, says that the use of foetal tissue for cutting-edge research creates even more pressure to keep aborting babies. “Partial-birth abortion was introduced onto the scene almost immediately after it became known that there was a lucrative market for foetal tissue,” said Crutcher.

Read related coverage:
Aborted Foetal Tissue Useless and Dangerous as Parkinson’s Treatment
[, 8Mar06, Hilary White LONDON]