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Panel Finds Flawed Data in a Major Stem Cell Report  

Stem Cells for Liver Cirrhosis

Sweden Company Wants To Start First Stem Cell Research Factory

Leading Scientist Charges Colleagues With “Misleading” Public

NIH: Diabetes, Pancreatic Cancer, Making Blood, Parthenogenesis, Amniotic Fluid Stem Cells… 

PANEL FINDS FLAWED DATA IN A MAJOR STEM CELL REPORT. An inquiry panel has found what it called “significantly flawed” data in a major stem cell paper published in Nature in 2002.

The article, which claimed stem cells isolated from an adult could change into all the major tissue types of the body, was seized on by opponents of abortion as showing that embryonic stem cell research was unnecessary since adult stem cells could provide all the predicted benefits.

The lead author of the article, Catherine Verfaillie, said 27Feb that she had sent a letter to Nature stating that the flawed data should not be relied on but that they did not affect the article’s conclusions. She said the journal was resubmitting the article to the original referees for them to make their own assessment.

Problems with the article were first reported this month by New Scientist. Two writers for that magazine, Peter Aldhous and Eugenie Samuel Reich, noticed last year that a set of graphs in the Nature article was the same as that in an article by Dr. Verfaillie published in a different journal but ascribed to different mice.

Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota, where Dr. Verfaillie had led the stem cell institute, said an inquiry panel was set up after Dr. Verfaillie asked the university to look into the issue of the duplicated graphs, which she attributed that to a mix-up when preparing two papers for publication at the same time.

The panel confirmed Dr. Verfaillie’s account, Dr. Mulcahy said, and concluded that there was no issue of scientific misconduct. But it found another problem besides the duplication, involving inconsistencies in the data describing the proteins on the cells’ surface.

The university then sent both articles to stem cell experts to assess whether the conclusions would still hold if the inconsistent data were to be eliminated. Three experts said that conclusions would still stand, one that they would be weakened. Because of this lack of complete agreement, the university believed that the scientific community should be informed of the situation, through Dr. Verfaillie’s letter to the journal editors, and make its own evaluation, Dr. Mulcahy said. 

Dr. Verfaillie is now at the University of Leuven in Belgium but still holds a part-time appointment at Minnesota. “I have no idea how this could have happened or why it happened,” she said, referring to the inconsistencies described by the panel.

Other laboratories have had difficulty repeating Dr. Verfaillie’s results, but recently some have succeeded, Dr. Verfaillie said, although they often gave the cells different names.

Recently she wrote an article with Irving Weissman of Stanford University, a stem cell expert renowned for his rigorous methods. But that article confirmed only that her cells could make blood, not that they would transform into other tissue types. 

“I think he is still not totally convinced they can make all the other cell types,” Dr. Verfaillie said. 

Dr. Weissman did not respond to e-mail messages asking for his assessment. 

This is the second time that a major stem cell paper has come under criticism, the previous episode involving the collapse last year of Hwang Woo-suk’s claims to have generated embryonic stem cell lines from adults. Although Dr. Hwang’s case involved fraud and belongs in a different category, the problems with the two papers underline the difficulty of working with stem cells and the immaturity of the field, despite the large sums of money being invested in it. [28Feb07, N.Wade]


Non-Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver
February 2007
Q. "I need an answer fast. My cousin has non-alcohlic cirrhosis of the liver and the liver is almost completely gone. He is getting weaker everyday and with O neg. blood, his hopes for a transplant are slim to none.
"Is there a doctor in America who is able to do stem cell transplants for someone like him, using his own stem cells?"
A. The published results so far are all from groups overseas… I've pasted their info farther below.  Obviously if they are thinking about it, they'd want to contact those folks first to check out whether he could get in for any treatment. There is one clinical trial in the U.S. which is recruiting patients.

Please refer to this study by identifier  NCT00393185
Dzemila Spahovic, MD      312-503-0356   
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago,  Illinois,  60611,  United States; Recruiting
Richard Burt, MD,  Principal Investigator
More info:
Please refer t

o this study by identifier  NCT00382278
Guilherme FM Rezende, MD, PhD      55-21-99976292    
Antonio Carlos Campos de Carvalho, MD, PhD      55-21-88744356    
Hospital Universitário Clementino Fraga Filho, Rio de Janeiro,  21941-590,  Brazil; Recruiting 
Evangelia Yannaki, M.D.
G.Papanicolaou Hospital, Gene and Cell Therapy Center, Hematology-BMT Unit, Thessaloniki,
57010 Greece
Shuji Terai, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Science & Applied Medicine (Gastroenterology & Hepatology),
Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Minami Kogushi 1-1-1, Ube, Yamaguchi 755-8505, Japan
Telephone:  81-836-22-2241; Fax:  81-836-22-2240
Nagy A. Habib, MBBCh, FRCS
Department of Surgical Oncology and Technology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial
College London, Hammersmith Campus, Du Cane Road, London W12 0NN, U.K.
Telephone:  44 20 8383 8574; Fax:  44 20 8383 3212 


SWEDEN COMPANY WANTS TO START FIRST EMBRYO-DESTRUCTIVE STEM CELL RESEARCH FACTORY. Swedish company Cellartis is set to build the world's first factory to produce large volumes of stem cells taken by destroying human embryos. The factory will be located in Dundee in Scotland and is a collaboration between Cellartis, the Scottish government and the University of Glasgow.

The factory will supply large volumes of stem cell lines to the global pharmaceutical and biotech industry.

It is located close to the location where Dolly the sheep was cloned. Around 100 stem cell experts are expected to work at the plant when it is up and running. "It was not possible to receive such a large sum of money in Sweden, which is one of the reasons why we are establishing the factory in Scotland", Anders Vedin [Cellartis’ Chairman] said. "Many of the large pharmaceutical companies like Glaxosmithkline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Astrazeneca are also located in this neighborhood." The Swedish company will maintain its headquarters in Gothenburg but will also work with the Scottish stem cell community to explore new business opportunities. [22Jan07,, Gothenburg, Sweden]




LEADING SCIENTIST CHARGES COLLEAGUES WITH “MISLEADING” PUBLIC; Asks them to justify why other human embryonic life is less worthy than their own. A leading U.S. researcher in adult stem cell technology has stated there is no legitimate scientific justification for questioning when human life begins

In an interview with Anita Crane for Celebrate Life magazine, Dr. James Sherley–recently denied tenure at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he says for his views on embryo research–accused some of his colleagues of deliberately misleading the public about the beginnings of human life in order to justify embryonic research.

“I am upset when I hear knowing scientists needlessly confuse and mislead people who look to them for objectivity and integrity,” he said. “The world is a complicated place and there is a vast amount that we do not know about how it works and how we in it work.

“Science, in its best formulation, seeks to define how the world works in terms that transcend human belief, human psyche and human mystery,” Dr. Sherley said. “It seeks to define the world in terms that are universal and knowable by all.

“For this specific discussion, within this clear framework of scientific principle, scientists can define when a human life begins. Like thousands of other multicellular organisms on this planet, human beings start life as a single cell embryo, the product of the union of a complete human genome and the programming cytoplasm of a human egg. This union occurs at fertilization.”

The only issue, Dr. Sherley said, is, “When does a human life begin?”

“Whether or not the embryo has yet developed spinal nerves or self-awareness is an irrelevant point made to distract and confuse. I challenge the promoters of human embryonic stem cell research to justify why another human embryonic life is less
worthy than their own was.”

While Dr. Sherley said he initially attributed the MIT chair’s refusal to consider him for tenure to racism–Dr. Sherley is of African descent–suggestions by colleagues during the two-year investigation of his complaint pointed to his outspoken opposition to embryonic research as a major factor in the case.

Dr. Sherley, who has concentrated his research on techniques to improve the multiplication capability of adult stem cells, has been a significant player in the effort to expose the immorality of embryonic research. Dr. Sherley participated in the campaign to prevent the passage of a bill permitting human cloning for research purposes in Missouri last November, and earlier in the fall spoke to an international group of scientists, theologians and bioethicists in Rome at a congress entitled “Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?” organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

“My father is a Baptist minister and one of my important role models for life. The strength that has sustained me through life’s many difficulties and allowed me to be forever optimistic of the goodness that begins every human life is my Christian faith,” Dr. Sherley told Celebrate Life.

Objections to embryonic research are dismissed if a scientist is found to have any religious beliefs, he said.

“How convenient for promoters of human embryonic stem cell research. My objections are on both moral grounds and scientific grounds, independent of my religious bearing. Religious belief is not required to recognize and seek to prevent a human atrocity; and religious belief cannot invalidate the scientific facts that human life begins when a human genome meets the wonder of the human egg.”

With 15 patents pending for Dr. Sherley’s technique of multiplying adult stem cells, the researcher’s contributions to the field are evident.

Dr. Sherley warned MIT in December that he would begin a hunger strike in protest Feb. 5 if the Institute did not acknowledge his denial of

tenure was unjust.

To respectfully express your concerns, contact MIT at:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Tel: (617) 253-1000

Read complete coverage from Celebrate Life:

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

Prestigious MIT Professor Who Opposes Embryo Research Faces Ousting by University
[31Jan07, Boston, G. Schultz,]



2007 Articles from

Found: Stem Cells Responsible for Pancreatic Cancer
Scientific data has shown that the ability of a tumor to grow and spread is dependent on a small group of rogue cells within the tumor, called cancer stem cells. Finding these stem cells is particularly critical for individuals with pancreatic cancer, which has the worst survival rate of any major cancer type. Fortunately, for the first time, privately­ supported scientists have identified a small population of human pancreatic cancer stem cells. The scientists examined tissue samples from 10 separate pancreatic cancer tumors. The samples then were implanted into mice and aggressively drove tumor formation. When the tumors were examined, the scientists were able to isolate cells that express the characteristics and cellular markers found in stem cells. These pancreatic cancer stem cells composed 1 percent of the total cell population in the tumors grown in the mice. This discovery will help scientists to develop therapeutic approaches to treat pancreatic cancer. Cancer Research 67(3):1030–7, laboratory of D. Simeone. [2007 Feb 1; 2007 Articles from]

Mother's Stem Cells Passed to Baby—Suggests Possible Way to Treat Diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, an individual's immune system attacks and destroys their own insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is necessary to efficiently metabolize sugars in foods, and without it, individuals with diabetes must inject themselves with insulin to survive. Scientists are trying to determine why the body attacks its own beta cells, with the hope of developing treatments to halt or reverse the disease process. Umbilical cord blood specimens from male infants contain female cells, believed to cross the placenta from the mother to the child during pregnancy. NIH-funded scientists designed a study to test the hypothesis that in type 1 diabetes, too many maternal cells cross the placenta, contribute to organs in the developing fetus, and stimulate the child's immune system to attack those organs after the child is born. The scientists developed a method for identifying non-child (maternal) DNA in cells and tissues and used it to examine blood samples from individuals with type 1 diabetes, from their siblings who do not have diabetes, and from unrelated healthy individuals. Blood samples from individuals with type 1 diabetes contained more maternal cells than blood from their siblings without diabetes, and significantly higher numbers of maternal cells than in blood from unrelated healthy individuals. The scientists next examined male pancreatic autopsy specimens of children or infants for evidence of maternal cells. Although they found more maternal cells in one specimen from a child with diabetes, the cells did not seem to be under autoimmune attack. Instead, the evidence suggested that the mother's cells had become functional beta cells, helping the child produce insulin after the loss of his own beta cells. The scientists concluded that rather than initiating an immune system attack in individuals with type 1 diabetes, the maternal stem cells may instead increase in number and migrate to the pancreas to replace lost beta cells. They theorize that the child's body tolerates the maternal cells because the immune system is still developing at the time of maternal cell entry into the child's body. They are now investigating this process, and hope to one day use maternal stem cells to treat children with type 1 diabetes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104(5):1637–42, laboratory of E.A.M. Gale. [2007 Jan 30;  2007 Articles from]

Stem Cell Lines Generated from Amniotic Fluid
Amniotic fluid surrounding the developing fetus contains cells shed by the fetus and is regularly collected from pregnant women during amniocentesis. Scientists have previously reported that some of these cells can differentiate into fat, muscle, bone, and nerve cells. Now, privately funded scientists have generated non-embryonic stem cell lines from cells found in both human and rat amniotic fluid. They named the cells amniotic fluid-derived stem cells (AFS).
Tests demonstrate that AFS can produce cells that originate from each of the three embryonic germ layers. The cells are self-renewing and maintain the normal number of chromosomes after a long time in culture. However, undifferentiated AFS did not make all of the proteins expected in pluripotent cells, and they were not capable of forming a teratoma. The scientists developed in vitro conditions that enabled them to produce nerve cells, liver cells, and bone-forming cells from AFS. AFS-derived human nerve cells could make proteins typical of specialized nerve cells and were able to integrate into a mouse brain and survive for at least two months. Cultured AFS-derived human liver cells secreted urea and made proteins characteristic of normal human liver cells. Cultured AFS-derived human bone cells made proteins expected of human bone cells and formed bone in mice when seeded onto 3-D scaffolds and implanted under the mouse's skin. Although scientists do not yet know how many different cell types AFS are capable of generating, AFS may one day allow scientists to establish a bank of cells for transplantation into human beings. Nature Biotechnology 25(1):100–6, laboratory of A. Atala. [2007 Jan; 2007 Articles from]

Tissue-Matched Stem Cells Created in Mice without Cloning
Scientists have proposed the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to create stem cells that are tissue-matched to an individual. This process is also known as therapeutic cloning. However, due to exchange of genetic information between pairs of like chromosomes (homologous recombination) during the egg's meiosis, the stem cells created using this method may still not be a precise match for the nucleus donor. In an attempt to improve the degree of tissue-matching, scientists recently derived stem cells from a mouse embryo created using a process known as parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis describes an embryo created without fertilization of the egg by a sperm, thus omitting the sperm's genetic contributions. The scientists identified stem cell lines retaining the identical "self" genetic information of the egg donor and used them to generate tissues for transplantation into the egg donor. These transplanted tissues were not rejected by the egg donor mouse's immune system. If scientists can repeat this technique using human eggs, they may be able to generate tissue-matched cells for transplantation to treat women who are willing to provide their own egg cells for this purpose. This technique could also offer an alternative method for deriving tissue-matched human embryonic stem cells that does not require destruction of a fertilized embryo. Science 315:482–6, laboratory of G.Q. Daley. [2007 Jan 26; 2007 Articles from]

Multipotent Adult Progenitor Cells (MAPCs) Regenerate Blood in Mice
In 2001, scientists isolated a special type of non-blood stem cells from human bone marrow. They named these cells multipotent adult progenitor cells, or MAPCs. MAPCs are able to generate cells of all three embryonic germ layers. Initially, MAPCs were notoriously difficult to isolate and grow in culture. In 2006, scientists reported improved MAPC isolation and culture conditions. Now a collaborative group of NIH-supported scientists successfully used mouse MAPCs to regenerate the blood-forming system in mice. The scientists speculate that MAPCs may arise earlier in development than blood-forming stem cells, because transplanted MAPCs generated both long-term blood-forming stem cells and all types of early blood cells. Although MAPC-derived cells that did not make blood-specific proteins (i.e., not blood cells) were identified in tissues outside of the blood, they also did not make proteins characteristic of the tissue in which they were found. The scientists have not yet determined the identity of these cells. Transplanted MAPC-derived cells did not appear to form tumors in recipient mice. MAPCs' ability to grow and divide in culture and to regenerate the blood-forming system in mice provides hope that scientists may be able to use human MAPCs to treat diseases of the blood. Doctors may also be able to induce transplant tolerance in human beings by using MAPCs to generate both immune cells and tissues for repair or replacement. The Journal of Experimental Medicine 204(1):129–39, laboratory of C. Verfaillie. [2007 Jan 22; 2007 Articles from]