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NEW!  Dolly the Sheep Maker Ian Wilmut Abandons Cloning — New Technique May Make Cloning & ESCR Obsolete — 6 Articles

Umbilical Cord Donation Helps Stem Cell Research

Brain Stem Cells Restore Memory in Mice

"Bionic" Nerve to Repair Injured Limbs 

US Firm Proposes Using "Spare" Human Embryos For Stem Cell Experiments 

Cord Blood Service to Debut in Pennsylvania…

Dolly Creator Wilmut Abandons Cloning. Cloning pioneer Ian Wilmut says he will no longer use in stem cell research the technique that resulted in the creation of Dolly the sheep but will instead pursue another form of experimentation that does not require the destruction of embryos.

Wilmut's announcement led some to speculate it might mark the "beginning of the end," as the British newspaper The Telegraph described it, for research, or therapeutic, cloning.

Wilmut, who had received a license two years ago in Great Britain to clone human embryos, said he has discontinued his experiments in the cloning field in order to work on a technique developed in Japan that he believes has more potential to produce stem cells that could treat debilitating diseases, The Telegraph reported Nov. 16.

The method Wilmut believes has a greater capability to result in therapies has been described as cell regression. The technique, pioneered by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, has been shown in experiments with mice to enable skin cells to be converted into cells with embryonic-like qualities, according to the newspaper. Such cells would have the advantage of not being rejected because they are the patient's own cells.

"The work which was described from Japan of using a technique to change cells from a patient directly into stem cells without making an embryo has got so much more potential," Wilmut said, according to BBC News. "Even though it's only been described for the mouse, when we were considering which option to pursue, whether to clone or whether to copy the work in Japan, we decided to copy the work in Japan."

The announcement of Wilmut's abandonment of cloning came a few days after it was reported that Oregon researchers had cloned embryos from primates for the first time in experiments with a 10-year-old rhesus macaque monkey. Scientists treated the report as a significant breakthrough, since it had been unclear if the cloning of primate embryos, including those of human beings, would be possible. Little mention was made of the thousands of embryos used to produce the small number of cloned primates.

Wilmut's course change, however, might sound a death knell for research cloning, pro-life bioethics specialist Wesley Smith said.

"It seems to me that Wilmut would not have rejected his license unless he were convinced that cloning is just not going to work or be sufficiently efficient — given the human egg dearth — to be more than a novelty," Smith wrote on the weblog "This is heartening news," Smith wrote.

Research, or therapeutic, cloning is performed with the goal of producing stem cells from human clones for experiments seeking therapies for a variety of diseases. The extraction of stem cells from the embryo, whether cloned or not, results in the death of the tiny human being. Pro-life advocates oppose embryonic stem cell research because of its destructive nature.

Unlike research using embryos, extracting stem cells from non-embryonic sources — such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat and bone marrow — has nearly universal support. Such research has produced treatments for at least 73 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research.

Wilmut believes the Japanese-based research could provide within five years a method that is both more rewarding and ethically acceptable.

A Scottish research team led by Wilmut announced in 1997 the successful cloning of a sheep, Dolly, which had been born the previous year. It was the first cloning of a mammal from an adult cell and his team made headlines around the world when they cloned Dolly.

Their scientific breakthrough wasn't entirely a success as Dolly was condemned by many observers as a complete failure in cloning science. Dolly was finally created after 300 failed attempts, resulting in miscarriages and malformed offspring. Ultimately, the "successful" result, Dolly, aged too rapidly and had to be euthanized. Wilmut is now a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. [Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press;, 20Nov07]


Dolly Creator's Announcement of No More Human Cloning Raises Some Concerns: New method of acquiring stem cells might still result in cloning of embryos

While the news is full of glowing reports that Britain’s Dr. Ian Wilmut, the world’s leading cloning and stem cell researcher, has given up the project of cloning human embryos, some are dubious that his new methods are not just cloning by another name.

The Telegraph reported that Dr. Wilmut, famed for having created “Dolly” the cloned sheep in 1997, was giving up attempts to create human cloned embryos by the somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) method.

“I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer,” Prof Wilmut told the Daily Telegraph November 16.

In SCNT, the method used to create Dolly and a number of other cloned mammals, the nucleus of an ovum is removed and replaced with the nucleus of a “somatic” or body cell such a skin cell. The transferred somatic cell nucleus contains the full complement of genes for the animal and the cell thus created can be induced to begin cell division as an embryo.

Wilmut told the Telegraph that he has decided not to pursue the licence to clone human embryos, which he was granted two years ago by the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). He said he would instead pursue a method pioneered by a team of Japanese scientists that they claimed was able to create embryonic stem cells without cloning embryos themselves.

The Telegraph reported that most of Wilmut’s motivation “is practical” but that he said the Japanese approach is also “easier to accept socially.”

The Japanese team, led by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, announced in July this year that they h

ad developed a technique of creating “pluripotent” stem cells, those cells that can create many of the body’s tissues, from just a skin cell.

Yamanaka's experiments used mouse skin cells, into which was introduced four proteins which "reprogram" the cell's nuclear DNA making it pluripotent – having the same qualities as a stem cell taken from a very early-stage embryo. Yamanaka told the London Times in an interview, “Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary. I've never worked with either.”

Some fear, however, that the possibility exists that the Japanese research did or could result in the creation of embryos.

Dr. John Shea, medical consultant for Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition told that he had “some concerns” about the ethics of Yamanaka’s work and that further study of his progress was needed.

“Yamanaka's work,” Dr. Shea said, “essentially somatic cell genetic engineering, is a very complex subject.”

The issue, said Shea, is whether the pluripotent stem cells created by the technique will always remain merely stem cells and cannot become embryos.

Shea said it is at least theoretically possible that the proteins being introduced to the cell to “reprogram” its genes, “may produce totipotent 'stem cells' that could, at least in theory, become human embryos” by a chemical process called “regulation”.

“Yamanaka's methods might produce not just stem cells, but embryos that would be killed, as they are in IVF [in vitro fertilisation], to derive ‘stem cells.’”

The ethical onus remains he said, with the researchers proposing to do the work to ensure that what is being created is not and cannot become an embryo.

“Unless he can prove that they cannot become embryos I think that the same rule applies as does in the case of cells separated from an embryo that may themselves become embryos. So yes…..if it can be cloning, morally it is the same thing as cloning.”

All cloning of embryos is cloning, Shea said, “but, of course, not all cloning is due to nuclear transfer.”

LifeSiteNews is further investigating the Wilmut development although open to the possibility that Wilmut's announcement is indeed good news for the protection of human life.

Read related coverage:
Dolly the Sheep Cloner Now Wants to Clone Humans

From Unthinkable to Morally Imperative: Dolly Cloner Flip Flops on Human Cloning

UK Cloning Doctor Wants to Create Human/Rabbit Hybrid Clones
[20Nov07, By Hilary White, Toronto,]

Bush Bears Fruit: New Discoveries Pave the Way for Ethical Stem-Cell Research
Throughout his presidency, the Science Intelligentsia has castigated President Bush for placing limits on the federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR). Acting as if he had a banned ESCR, which of course he hadn’t, “the scientists” and their camp followers in the media and on Capital Hill accused the president of withholding cures from the ill in order to impose his religious beliefs on a reluctant public.

Little noted in all of the caterwauling, was that ESCR and human-cloning research (SCNT) have been funded bounteously — to the tune of nearly $2 billion. Not only has the National Institutes of Health put more than $150 million in recent years into human ESCR (about $40 annually), but according to a recent report put out by the Rockefeller Institute, to date about $1.7 billion has poured into ESCR and SCNT from philanthropic sources — and this doesn’t include the hundreds of millions granted annually by the states for cloning and ESCR experiments.

So what’s really going on here? Yes, the president’s policies have forced some research centers to set up separate labs for research on Bush-approved- and non-approved, stem-cell-research lines. But what really got under “the scientists” skin was the clarion moral message sent by the president: It is wrong to treat nascent human life as a mere natural resource to be sown, reaped, and consumed.

Big Biotech responded to the Bush policy by mounting a powerful public advocacy campaign aimed at both opening the federal spigots, and breaking the back of the moral opposition to ESCR and human cloning research. Railing against the president and supporters of his policy as “anti-science,” ESCR/SCNT advocates accused Bush of denying sick people needed medical breakthroughs. Human cloning via SCNT was redefined from “therapeutic cloning” in the advocates’ lexicon to merely “stem-cell research.” The change of term constituted a clever ruse that bundled and confused in people’s minds, the morally acceptable advances being made in adult stem-cell research, the morally dubious human cloning project, and the use of “spare” embryos for research that were “going to be discarded anyway.”

For awhile, the political tide ran powerfully in the cloners’ direction. In November 2004, California voters passed Proposition 71, agreeing to borrow $3 billion over ten years to pay private companies, and their business partners in major university research centers, to conduct human cloning research and ESCR. This was followed with bipartisan votes in Congress passing legislation to overturn Bush’s policy. To this, the president responded with his only veto of the first term. This year, with the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, that bit of Kabuki Theater was repeated — but the President’s policy held.

Then, almost without being perceived, the tide began to turn. Amendment 2 in Missouri — which established a constitutional right in Missouri to conduct human cloning research — was expected to cruise to an easy victory, proving that even in the Bible Belt, people wanted scientists to pursue ESCR/SCNT. But in the last two weeks of the campaign, public support for the measure plummeted in the face of the sheer power of Rush Limbaugh’s broadcasting voice in the imbroglio over actor Michael J. Fox’s pro ESCR/cloning political ads, and an effective last minute advertising campaign featuring St. Louis Cardinal baseball stars and popular actors which warned voters “don’t be bought, don’t be fooled.” The measure limped home with a bare majority, winning the day politically, but denying its sponsors of the big moral boost they expected to receive from its passage.

Meanwhile, little reported by the mainstream media, adult stem-cell/umbilical-cord blood stem-cell research advanced at an exhilarating pace. Early human trials showed that adult stem cells from olfactory tissues restored feeling to patients paralyzed with spinal-cord injury. Bone-marrow stem cells appeared to prevent the worsening of progressive MS. People with Type-1 diabetes were cured with their own adult stem cells. Increasingly, Big Biotech’s circus barker-call of CURES! CURES! CURES! seemed to be wearing thin. Then, just a few weeks ago, New Jersey voters shocked the science and political worlds by rejecting a $450 million bond measure that, like California’s Proposition 71, would have funded human cloning and embryonic-stem-cell research.

Returning to President Bush’s stem-cell funding policy; even though it was politically unpopular, the President believed wholeheartedly that the raw talent, intelligence, and creativity of

the science sector would find a way to obtain pluripotent stem cells (the ability to become any cell type) through ethical means. In speeches and news conference answers about the stem-cell issue, Bush repeatedly supported existing ethical areas of research, and called upon researchers to find “alternative” methods of developing stem-cell medicine without treating nascent human life “as an experiment.” Toward this end, earlier this year Bush signed an executive order requiring the NIH to identify all sources of human pluripotent stem cells, and invited “scientists to work with the NIH, so we can add new ethically derived stem-cell lines to the list of those eligible for federal funding.”

The Science Establishment pouted and the New York Times castigated the president’s call. But other scientists had already taken up the president’s challenge, and their work was paying off. Experiments in mice by Rudolf Jaenisch at Harvard demonstrated proof of principle for “altered nuclear transfer” (ANT), a theoretical method of deriving pluripotent stem cells without creating and destroying embryos. Don Landry, Professor at Columbia University Department of Medicine, developed a way to identify dead embryos for potential use in stem-cell research — which would be no more unethical than researching on cadavers. Perhaps most excitingly, Kyoto University’s Shinya Yamanaka reprogrammed skin cells from the tails of mice, and reverted them back to an embryonic-like stem-cell state — offering tremendous hope that every therapeutic benefit scientists believed could be derived from therapeutic cloning, could instead be achieved by regressing a patient’s own tissues.

Then, last week very big news: Ian Wilmut — who opened the Pandora’s Box of human cloning with the creation of Dolly the sheep, and who two years ago obtained a license from the United Kingdom’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to create cloned human embryos from the cells of Lou Gehrig’s disease patients — stunned the scientific world with the sudden and unexpected announcement that he had rejected human cloning research, in favor of pursuing cell reprogramming as an ethical and uncontroversial means of obtaining pluripotent cells. Wilmut told the Telegraph:

The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer work in humans, direct reprogramming will work too.

I am anticipating that before too long we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making human embryos. I have no doubt that in the long term, direct reprogramming will be more productive, though we can't be sure exactly when, next year or five years into the future.

Finally, today came the Krakatau of stem-cell announcements: Reprogramming has been achieved using human cells. As reported by the journal Science, researchers reverted human connective tissue cells back to an embryonic-stem-cell-like state — and then differentiated them into all three of the body’s major tissue types. If this work pans out, there will be no need to create human cloned embryos for use in embryonic-stem-cell therapies.

I believe that many of these exciting “alternative” methods would not have been achieved but for President Bush’s stalwart stand promoting ethical stem-cell research. Indeed, had the president followed the crowd instead of leading it, most research efforts would have been devoted to trying to perfect ESCR and human-cloning research — which, despite copious funding, have not worked out yet as scientists originally hoped.

So thank you for your courageous leadership, Mr. President. Because of your willingness to absorb the brickbats of the Science Establishment, the Media Elite, and weak-kneed Republican and Democratic politicians alike — we now have the very real potential of developing thriving and robust stem-cell medicine and scientific research sectors that will bridge, rather than exacerbate, our moral differences over the importance and meaning of human life.
[Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.;; N Valko RN, 21Nov07]
 Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"Turning Lead Into Gold:" More on the Big Stem Cell Breakthrough
There are a lot of stories out about the big breakthrough, although as I suspected the energy of excitement is missing in many media reports. Still, the news is all over the place. Here's a small sampling:

– Los Angeles Times:
Human skin cells can be reprogrammed to behave almost exactly like embryonic stem cells, a discovery that provides a road map for creating personalized biological repair kits without ethical strings attached, scientists reported today.

– Wall Street Journal Online:
In the quest to treat difficult diseases, researchers have created human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos or using hard-to-get eggs. The technique may prove to be easier, cheaper, and more ethically appealing than an alternative approach that requires cloning.

– My pal Joseph Bottum at the First Things Blog:
..we are about to witness something like victory in the fight over embryonic stem cells. And that will open a nest of interesting questions, beginning with this one: All those editorialists and columnists who have, over the past ten years, howled and howled about Luddites and religious fanatics thwarting science and frustrating medicine–were they really interested in technology and health, or were they just using all that as a handy stick with which to whack their political opponents?…The people who turn out actually to have believed in the power of science are the pro-lifers–the ones who said that a moral roadblock is not, in point of fact, an outrageous hindrance, for scientists will always find another, less-objectionable way to achieve their goals.

– The Associated Press:
Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.

– Reuters:
Researchers announced on Tuesday that they had found a way to make powerful human embryonic stem cells without using cloning technology and without making a human embryo.
This early work will be multiplied now as, in the tradition of science, many other researchers jump in to perfect the technique. Whether these cells will be used directly in therapies remains an open issue–remember the tumors!–but there is no question that many of the basic research goals scientists wanted from pluripotent stem cells can now be achieved, and more easily since ESCR remains a difficult process and human cloning has not yet been done.

Now, with adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood stem cells moving ahead in human trials, along with other areas of ethical biotechnology we often discuss here at SHS, regenerative medicine looks to be both beneficial and ethical. Who could ask for anything more?
Labels: Stem Cell Research Breakthrough
 Tuesday, November 20, 2007 posted by Wesley J. Smith at 10:33 AM

No Embryos, No Cloning, No Eggs--No Problem! Two prominent embryonic stem cell scientists today published results showing that they can produce cells with the qualities of e

mbryonic stem cells directly from human skin cells, without the need for creating or destroying embryos, without cloning, and without the need for eggs used in cloning.

The groundbreaking news by Dr. James Thomson, first to grow human embryonic stem cells, and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, Japan, was that they produced what are called "iPS" cells (induced Pluripotent Stem cells) using a simple recipe that involved adding four genetic factors to a human skin cell.

When comparing these new cells with existing embryonic stem cells, Thomson noted that iPS cells "meet the defining criteria" for embryonic stem cells "with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos."

Yamanaka and Thomson are to be congratulated for pushing forward the frontiers of science and demonstrating that good science can also satisfy ethical requirements.

Coupled with the recent announcement by Dr. Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep, that he is shelving cloning as an unproductive technique in favor of this new ethical method, dubious experiments involving embryo cloning and embryo destruction are being rendered obsolete.

Scientists can now work with "embryonic-like" stem cells without ethical concerns, while for patients the adult and cord blood stem cells continue to treat thousands of patients now. Congress should move swiftly to ban all human cloning by passing the Brownback-Weldon human cloning prohibition. [FRC, 20Nov07; New Stem Cell Method Could Ease Ethical Concerns:]

Researchers: We Can Make Embryonic Stem Cells Without Destroying Life Two teams of scientists say they have devised a new process that allows for the creation of embryonic stem cells without the destruction of human life. The reports could be good news for pro-life groups who oppose the research because days-old unborn children are normally killed for their cells.

Stem cell pioneers in Wisconsin and Japan released studies in the medical journals Science and Cell that claim to have found a way — called direct reprogramming — to make adult stem cells revert to their embryonic form.

The studies confirm that human skin cells (fibroblasts) can be used to make pluripotent stem cells sharing essentially all the features of human embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and his team published the Cell paper while James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who discovered embryonic stem cells, published the Science paper.

Yamanaka previously reported, in 2006, turning mouse cells into semi-embryonic ones and then, earlier this year, he said he had produced cells that were almost indistinguishable from embryonic ones.

Both teams moved on from animal cells and Yamanaka's was able to convert the skin cells from a 36-year-old woman into embryonic ones while Thomson's team worked with cells from a newborn baby.

The technique involves the introduction of 4 genes into the skin cells, thereby "reprogramming" them to a less specialized (pluripotent) state.

The newly-produced "embryonic" type stem cells are known as "iPS" cells.

The good news about the process is that it can be replicated easily, Thomson told AP. That could mean labs across the world could produce embryonic like stem cells without destroying human life.

"People didn't know it would be this easy," Thomson said. "Thousands of labs in the United States can do this, basically tomorrow."

The new technique isn't without problems as the researchers must disrupt the DNA of the skin cells to begin the process of reverting to embryonic form. This has the potential of causing cancer in the cells.

As a result, the cells may not be able to be used for medical transplants for patients suffering from diseases such as diabetes or Parkinson's.

“As long as we use those viruses, I don’t think we can say that the [reprogrammed] cells are as safe as embryonic stem cells,” said Dr. Yamanaka.

However, the researchers involved say they are confident they will be able to fix the problem so the "new" embryonic stem cells can be used for treatments. "President Bush is very pleased to see the important advances in ethical stem cell research reported in scientific journals today," Fratto explained. "By avoiding techniques that destroy life, while vigorously supporting alternative approaches, President Bush is encouraging scientific advancement within ethical boundaries," Fratto added.

[20Nov07, Ertelt,, Madison, WI;;_ylt=AkInubl4KSTpjmkzxl8pWn.s0NUE, AP, M. Ritter, 20Nov07,
Stem Cell Breakthrough Uses No Embryos] 



UMBILICAL CORD DONATION HELPS STEM CELL RESEARCH. On Tuesday, a Lilburn, GA couple welcomed their third child into the world at DeKalb Medical Center. They donated his cord blood to StemCyte, a company that works with the hospital to collect and store cord blood.

"I'd much rather have the cord blood be used by someone who needs it than have it be thrown away," Suzanne, 33, said several hours after her C-section.

Likewise, Yolanda G was delighted about the birth on Oct. 5 of her first child, Janiya. The new Douglasville mom also is thrilled that her daughter's delivery could potentially save a life.

"If someone else benefits from it, if it saves another life, perfect," said Yolanda, 36.

For several years, families have been able to privately store their baby's umbilical cord in case the baby, a sibling or other family member developed a disease that could be treated with stem cells.

Now, many doctors and medical experts are encouraging families to consider donating their baby's cord blood to public banks.

The new program at DeKalb Medical gives families in metro Atlanta an option for public donation.

The stem cells taken from the babies' umbilical cord blood someday may treat a patient who has diseases such as sickle cell anemia or leukemia. Stem cells are immature cells that can develop into specialized cells such as blood, muscle and nerve cells. They can be taken from a variety of sources: embryos, fetal

tissue, umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and circulating blood.

The stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow have treated dozens of diseases.

In 1988, doctors performed the first cord blood transplant from a donor who was a sibling of the patient. Five years later, Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University Medical Center performed the first successful cord blood transplants from a donor not related to the patient.

Doctors have performed about 8,000 cord blood transplants worldwide.

Dr. Stuart Pancer, an obstetrician and gynecologist who practices in Tucker, said he recommends DeKalb Medical's cord blood donation program to his patients. He said that most umbilical cords, including their stem cell-rich blood, usually are discarded as medical waste after a delivery.

No controversy

Sometimes, patients preserve their baby's cord blood with private banks, such as Cryo-Cell International or ViaCord, but both companies charge about $2,000 to collect and store the cord blood for the first year. Thereafter, storage is $125 per year.Pancer said that most of his patients cannot afford private cord blood banking. In addition, the odds are low that the baby or family member ever will need a cord blood transplant for disease treatment. There's also no guarantee a child's cord blood will be a match for a family member. "You pay a lot of money for something that 99 percent of the time you won't ever need," Pancer said.

"Now comes the possibility of donating and helping treat disease, not just for the person donating but for other people. You can't beat that."

The Lilburn mother said she and her husband were not interested in going the private company route. "We didn't want to pay all that money for something we might not ever need or use."

Unlike research that involves human embryos, the process of collecting stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow is not controversial.

While supporters of human embryonic research say it may lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of ailments such as cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, opponents argue that it crosses a moral line because it destroys the human embryo.

State comes on board

Many medical experts — regardless of their position on embryonic stem cell research — support stem cell therapies from cord blood.

They also support public cord blood banking to maximize the chances of a sick person finding a genetically suitable sample or a "match." Members of racial and ethnic minority groups, such as African-Americans, often have a hard time finding suitable cord blood samples.

Several states, including Georgia, are exploring ways to establish public cord blood banks.

Earlier this year, the Georgia Legislature approved Senate Bill 148, a measure that seeks to create a cord blood bank or network of such banks in the state. The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue, established a 15-member state commission that would oversee a system of umbilical cord blood banks and seek grants for non-embryonic stem cell research.

StemCyte, the California-based company that works with DeKalb Medical, collects cord blood units for both private and public use. At DeKalb Medical, the company employs three collection specialists who work under the supervision of hospital staff to safely process and prepare the cord blood for shipment to its storage facilities.

Under the program, any woman who donates her baby's cord blood may be able to use it for a family member if necessary without paying a fee to StemCyte. If the donated unit already has been used for another patient, the company will attempt to provide a compatible unit.

Dr. Robert Chow, StemCyte's founder, said he wants to provide cord blood samples to people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Chow, who is Asian-American, said he sought to establish a program at DeKalb Medical because of the racially diverse community it serves.

"We're hoping to give life to people," Chow said. "Our mission is to provide cord blood stem cell therapy to every patient in need." [19Oct07,, S. Jacobs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


BRAIN STEM CELLS RESTORE MEMORY IN MICE: Experiments point to ways to treat injury, stroke and even Alzheimer's, experts say. A new U.S. study involving mice suggests the brain's own stem cells may have the ability to restore memory after an injury.

These neural stem cells work by protecting existing cells and promoting neuronal connections.

In their experiments, a team at the University of California, Irvine, were able to bring the rodents' memory back to healthy levels up to three months after treatment.

The finding could open new doors for treatment of brain injury, stroke and dementia, experts say.

"This is one of the first reports that you can take a stem cell transplantation approach and restore memory," said lead researcher Mathew Blurton-Jones, a postdoctorate fellow at the university. "There is a lot of awareness that stem cells might be useful in treating diseases that cause loss of motor function, but this study shows that they might benefit memory in stroke or traumatic brain injury, and potentially Alzheimer's disease."

In the study, published in the Oct. 31 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, Blurton-Jones and his colleagues used genetically engineered mice that naturally develop brain lesions. The researchers destroyed cells in a brain area called the hippocampus. These cells are known to be vital to memory formation and it is in this region that neurons often die after injury, the researchers explained.

To test the mice's memory, Blurton-Jones's group conducted place and object recognition tests with both healthy mice and brain-injured mice.

Healthy mice remembered their surroundings about 70 percent of the time, while brain-injured mice remembered it only 40 percent of the time. For objects, healthy mice recalled objects about 80 percent of the time, but injured mice remembered them only 65 percent of the time.

The researchers then injected each mouse with about 200,000 neural stem cells.

They found that mice with brain injuries that received the stem cells now remembered their surroundings about 70 percent of the time — the same as healthy mice. However, mice that didn't receive stem cells still had memory deficits.

The researchers also found that i

n healthy mice injected with stem cells, the stem cells traveled throughout the brain. In contrast, stem cells given to injured mice lingered in the hippocampus. Only about 4 percent of those stem cells became neurons, indicating that the stem cells were repairing existing cells to improve memory, rather than replacing the dead brain cells, Blurton-Jones's team noted.

The researchers are presently doing another study with mice stricken with Alzheimer's. "The initial results are promising," Blurton-Jones said. "This has a huge potential, but we have to be cautious about not rushing into the clinic too early."

One expert is optimistic about the findings.

"Putting in these stem cells could eventually help in age-related memory decline," said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, director of the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. "There is clearly a therapeutic potential to this."

Sanberg noted that for the process to work with Alzheimer's it has to work with older brains. "There is clearly therapeutic potential in humans, but there are a lot of hurdles to overcome," he said. "This is another demonstration of the potential for neural stem cells in brain disorders."

For more information on memory, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine,

[31October2007, Mathew Blurton-Jones, Ph.D., postdoctorate fellow, University of California, Irvine; Paul R. Sanberg, M.D., director, Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa; Oct. 31, 2007, Journal of Neuroscience; ScoutNews, LLC; 31Oct, S. Reinberg, HealthDay News]




BIONIC NERVE TO REPAIR INJURED LIMBS. Accident victims could one day have their severed nerves "rewired" with the help of stem cells extracted by liposuction.

University of Manchester researchers have transformed fat tissue stem cells into nerve cells – and now plan to develop an artificial nerve that will bring damaged limbs and organs back to life. If all goes well, trials on the first patients could begin in "three or four years," said Prof Giorgio Terenghi.

In a study published in the journal Experimental Neurology, Dr Paul Kingham and his team at the UK Centre for Tissue Regeneration in Manchester isolated the stem cells from the fat tissue of adult animals and differentiated them into nerve cells to be used for repair and regeneration of injured nerves.
 They are now about to start a trial extracting stem cells from fat tissue of volunteer adult patients by liposuction, which is relatively easier source than bone marrow, in order to compare in the laboratory human and animal stem cells.

Following that, they will develop an artificial nerve constructed from a biodegradable polymer to transplant the differentiated stem cells. The biomaterial will be rolled up into a tube-like structure and inserted between the two ends of the cut nerve so that the regrowing nerve fibre can go through it from one end to the other.

This 'bionic' nerve could also be used in people who have suffered injuries to their limbs or organs, cancer patients whose tumour surgery has affected a nearby nerve trunk and people who have had organ transplants. Dr Kingham said: "The differentiated stem cells have great potential for future clinical use, initially for treatment of patients with traumatic injuries of nerves in the arms and legs.

"This work will also help to develop a similar surgical approach for organ transplant, to give full functional recuperation to the transplanted tissue.

"Furthermore, the technique of artificial nerve grafting could also be applicable when tumour mass has involved a nearby nerve trunk, which consequently has to be excised together with the tumour, such as the removal of a prostate tumour where damage to the nerve leads to male impotence."

Director of the UKCTR, Prof Terenghi said: "This new research is a very exciting development with many future clinical applications that will improve the lives of many different types of patients and therefore many, many people. "The frequency of nerve injury is one in every 1,000 of the population – or 50,000 cases in the UK – every year.

"The current repair method – a patient donating their own nerve graft to span the gap at the injury site – is far from optimal because of the poor functional outcome, the extra damage and the possibility of forming scars and tumours at the donor site. Tissue engineering using a combination of biomaterials and cell-based therapies, while at an early stage, promises a great improvement on that. Artificial nerve guides provide mechanical support, protect the re-growing nerve and contain growth factor and molecules favourable to regeneration. The patient will not be able to tell that they had ever 'lost' their limb and will be able carry on exactly as they did before."

He added: "The facilities available at the UKCTR have been developed jointly by the University of Manchester and the North West Development Agency, with exactly this aim – to provide the transition from experimental research to new clinical treatment."[18Oct07, Roger Highfield,,]


British Ethicists offer Weak Objections. A private firm in the US that has proposed a scheme to turn “spare” embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments into stem cells, has come under criticism in the UK by fertility experts. reported in August this year that a California-based company StemLifeLine, would allow couples, for a $17,000 US fee, to cannibalize their extra children for spare parts which could then be stored for up to 20 years.

The company researchers told delegates at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Washington that 17 couples from the Nevada Center for Reproductive Medicine had donated 45 three-day-old frozen embryos. From these the doctors created nine stem cell lines.

The British critics, however, have for many years fully accepted the use of living human beings at the embryonic stage for experimentation. They therefore had little moral grounds for objection and merely cited disapproval of the commercial aspect of the procedure based on little clinical evidence of success.

Stephen Minger, a professor and stem cell expert at King's College-London, told BBC news, “My worry is that this is a commercial service that is being promoted to companies when the science is really not there to justify it.” He added, “It is like trying to run before you can walk, and the fact it is being done for commercial purposes makes it worse.”

Lord Robert Winston, a fertility expert and chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University has repeatedly warned in the British press that the claims for embryo stem cells are overly-hyped in the media and that women are being used as guinea pigs in IVF experiments. He told the Scotsman newspaper, “There is no scientific evidence to sustain the notion this will be a useful procedure.”

John Paul Maytum of the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, regarded as the most permissive national embryo research regulatory agency in the world, objected only
that there was not a stated intended use for the stem cells obtained by the California research. British rules, he said, would prevent a private company doing this research without a specific goal in mind. He told the Guardian, “It is very difficult to see how that would pass the 'necessary and desirable' test for the use of human embryos.”

Read related coverage:
California Company: We'll Turn Your Child's Sibling Embryos Into Extra Body Parts
[18Oct07, H. White, London,] 



CORD BLOOD SERVICE TO DEBUT in PA. Women giving birth in Pittsburgh will have the option to make an altruistic decision with life-saving potential starting 8October07. The region's first public-private umbilical cord blood collection service is being offered through Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland.
"The clinical uses of umbilical stem cells have become increasingly possible for treatments for patients with a variety of disorders, whether they be malignancies from leukemia or sickle-cell anemia," said Dr. Dennis English, vice president of medical affairs at Magee.
Cord blood is the blood that remains in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. It is rich in stem cells, which can be coaxed into growing into different types of tissue or blood cells. It has been used successfully to treat about 70 diseases, and researchers say they believe it has potential to treat more, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Magee's new service is a partnership that includes Highmark Inc., UPMC Health Plan, three private cord blood banks and the Institute for Transfusion Medicine, the parent organization of Pittsburgh's Central Blood Bank. Mothers will be able to bank their baby's cord blood for their use, donate it for public use or give it to the Magee-Womens Research Institute for scientific research.
The family of Daniel Berger — a Pittsburgh lawyer who received two stem cell transplants while battling lymphoma and leukemia, but died last year when his heart failed — started a fund to pay for a technician who is dedicated to collecting the cord blood.
"By having a dedicated team, we should be always able to meet the needs of a patient who wants to donate their blood," English said.
Obstetricians in Western Pennsylvania already offer pregnant women the option to bank cord blood, but private banks charge about $2,000 to collect the blood and an annual fee of $100 to $200 to store it. Chances that a child would actually need his or her cord blood before age 20 are slim, with estimates ranging from 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 20,000.
Families donating cord blood to the public or to research will not be charged a fee, but the blood likely would not be available to them if they needed it later.
"It's sort of like if you donate (regular) blood to the blood bank," English said. "Hopefully there would be a specimen available to you, but it wouldn't be yours."
In Western Pennsylvania, about 1.5 percent of births involve cord blood being privately banked. Little is donated for public use, English said. Nationally, about 4 percent of cord blood is banked. Minorities are under-represented, something Magee hopes to change.
"Clearly we in Western Pennsylvania have not done a particularly good job," English said. "And it's important that we change this because unbanked cord blood is essentially a wasted resource."
If it isn't banked, cord blood usually is disposed of with the placenta and umbilical cord.
Dr. Joe Kiss, Central Blood Bank's medical director, said they are aiming for an almost 10 percent collection rate, or 50-75 of the 750 monthly births at Magee.
The blood goes through a rigorous screening process to make sure it contains enough stem cells and is free of disease. It is then sent to Chicago, where the Institute for Transfusion Medicine has a specialized facility that can store it at negative 195 degrees Celsius. To date it has banked about 3,500 units, mostly from the Chicago area.
"We're really excited to be a part of this," Kiss said. "It really enables the Pittsburgh community to participate in an activity that makes life-saving stem cells available to people across the country and around the world." [8October2007, Allison M. Heinrichs, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]