Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Adult stem cells therapy can fix a broken heart?

Mary sent me this article from the Irish Times.

Excerpt:

A new US study in which patients had their hearts repaired with stem cells has brought regenerative treatments for heart attacks a step closer.

The therapy, reported today in the Lancet  medical journal, halved the extent of normally permanent scarring on the heart, and led to the growth of new heart muscle.

However, the treatment produced no significant change in “ejection fraction” – a measure of the heart’s pumping capacity.

The Caduceus trial recruited a total of 25 patients with an average age of 53 who had all suffered a heart attack in the previous month.

Some 17 patients received coronary artery infusions of 12 to 25 million stem cells derived from healthy tissue taken from their own hearts. The remaining eight underwent standard post-heart attack care.

A year later, the proportion of the heart left scarred in the stem cell-treated patients had been reduced from 24 per cent to 12 per cent. No change was seen in patients who did not receive the treatment.

Professor Eduardo Marban, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, who led the US team, said: “The effects are substantial, and surprisingly larger in humans than they were in animal tests.

“This discovery challenges the conventional wisdom that, once established, scar is permanent and that, once lost, healthy heart muscle cannot be restored.”

The Phase I study, which was chiefly conducted to evaluate safety, was published today in an online edition of the Lancet.  It follows a similar trial by US scientists at Harvard Medical School and the University of Louisville whose findings were reported last year, also in the Lancet.

That study, which used a different kind of heart stem cell, produced a 12 per cent average increase in ejection fraction.

Yet another breakthrough for ethical adult stem cells.

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Liberal media silent as ESCR pioneer Geron halts ESCR research

Here’s the story from CBS News.

Excerpt:

The company doing the first government-approved test of embryonic stem cell therapy is discontinuing further stem cell work, a move with stark implications for a field offering hope of future medicines for conditions with inadequate or no current treatments.

Geron Corp., a pioneer in stem cell research that has been testing a spinal cord injury treatment, said late Monday that it’s halting development of its stem cell programs to conserve funds. It is seeking partners to take on the programs’ assets and is laying off much of its staff.

[...]The company is eliminating 66 full-time jobs, or 38 percent of its staff, a process that will bring about $8 million in costs— about $5 million in the current quarter and about $3 million in the first half of 2012.

Now consider this article in the Weekly Standard by Wesley J. Smith. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

For years, the media touted the promise of embryonic stem cells. Year after year, Geron Corporation announced that its embryonic stem cell treatment for acute spinal cord injury would receive FDA approval “next year” for human testing. And year after year, the media dutifully informed readers and viewers that cures were imminent. When the FDA finally did approve a tiny human trial for 10 patients in January 2009, the news exploded around the world. This was it: The era of embryonic stem cell therapy had arrived!

Not exactly. Last week, Geron issued a terse statement announcing it was not only canceling the study, but abandoning the embryonic stem cell field altogether for financial reasons.

You would think Geron’s failure would be very big news. Instead, it turns out that the mainstream media pay attention only when embryonic stem cell research seems to be succeeding—so far, almost exclusively in animal studies. When, as here, it crashes and burns, it is scarcely news at all.

[M]ost of the same news outlets that gave Geron star treatment when it was heralding supposed breakthroughs provided only muted coverage of the company’s retreat into producing anti-cancer drugs.

The Los Angeles Times may be the most egregious offender. A chronic booster of Geron’s embryonic stem cell research, it reported the FDA’s approval of a human trial on January 24, 2009, in a story that began, “Ushering in a new era in medicine .  .  . ” The paper stayed on the story. In October 2010, it reported that the first patient had received an injection, then a few days later it ran a feature about the study under the headline “Hope for Spinal Cord Patients.” During the same period, however, the paper did not report the encouraging results of early human trials of treatments for spinal cord injury developed using adult stem cells.

Then last May, the Times celebrated the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine’s $25 million loan to support Geron’s study, noting that the company’s stem cell product had performed as hoped in rat -studies. Yet the day after Geron’s embryonic stem cell research unit was laid off, the Times couldn’t find the space to print the story, though the following day a blog entry ran on the Times website.

The vast majority (all?) of medical successes with stem cell research have come from ethical adult stem-cell research. Adult stem cell research does not kill unborn children. And that’s why it doesn’t draw funding from pro-abortion politicians or get positive coverage by pro-abortion media outlets. The politics is driving the science – just like with global warming research and alternative energy funding.

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New study: adult stem cells are almost identical to embryonic stem cells

From Life News.

Excerpt:

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have used detailed, high-tech analysis to examine the differences between human embryonic stem cells (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).

Their findings, published online in the journal Nature Methods, for the first time measured the differences between ESC and iPSC in terms of their proteins (the workhorses of the cell that provide structure, function, and identity for a cell), phosphorylation of proteins (a common type of protein modification used to control protein activity), and RNA (an intermediate messenger from DNA that codes for specific proteins.)  The results indicate that there is significant similarity between ESC and iPSC, with less than 1 percent difference.

ESC research relies on the destruction of a young human embryo, while iPS cells are produced by adding a few genes to normal cells, such as skin, thereby reprogramming the cell to look and act like an ESC, yet without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning techniques.  The iPS cells thus have a couple of advantages over ESC, including their ethical production as well as the ability to produce pluripotent stem cells directly from any person, to study disease or for potential transplant matching (though the latter has not been proven.)  The similarities indicate, however, that iPSC are more than adequate alternatives to ESC.

The study points out that some differences do still exist between ESC and iPSC, likely as a result of the different origins of the two stem cell types, and that further studies will examine those differences.  But the authors state in their paper that “These differences do not appear to appreciably alter cellular function in the pluripotent state,” as in not affecting the growth and function of iPSC as a stem cell, and the “remarkable similarity between ESCs and iPSCs.”

It’s time to stop the destruction of embryos for experiments, and focus on ethical science.

See below for some adult stem cell successes.

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Doctors grow new trachea from patient’s own adult stem cells

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Doctors have replaced the cancer-stricken windpipe of a patient with an organ made in a lab, a landmark achievement for regenerative medicine. The patient no longer has cancer and is expected to have a normal life expectancy, doctors said.

[...]The windpipe is a hollow tube, about 4.5 inches long, leading to the lungs. A key part of it is a scaffold—which functions like a skeleton for the organ—consisting of tissues such as cartilage and muscle. As a first step, a team led by Alexander Seifalian of University College London used plastic materials and nanotechnology to make an artificial version of the scaffold in the lab. It was closely modeled on the shape and size of the Eritrean man’s windpipe.

Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard Bioscience Inc. of Holliston, Mass., made a bioreactor, a shoe-box-size device similar to a spinning rotisserie machine. The artificial scaffold was placed on the bioreactor, and stem cells extracted from the patient’s bone marrow were dripped onto the revolving scaffold for two days.

With the patient on the surgery table, Dr. Macchiarini and colleagues then added chemicals to the stem cells, persuading them to differentiate into tissue—such as bony cells—that make up the windpipe.

About 48 hours after the transplant, imaging and other studies showed appropriate cells in the process of populating the artificial windpipe, which had begun to function like a natural one. There was no rejection by the patient’s immune system, because the cells used to seed the artificial windpipe came from the patient’s own body.

Another success for ethical adult stem cell research.

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Adult stem cells used to grow a new heart

From Life Site News. (H/T Letitia)

Excerpt:

Researchers at the University of Minnesota used adult stem cells to create a living human heart that they hope will revolutionize transplants.

The breakthrough, said lead researcher Dr. Doris Taylor, could ultimately mean that “donated” hearts are no longer used in transplant operations, circumventing the ethical problems involved in organ donation and obviating the need for drugs to combat immune system rejection.

Dr. Taylor, director of the university’s Center for Cardiovascular Repair, is one of the world’s leaders in heart organ repair and regeneration and has said it is her goal to create a living heart that can be transplanted into a patient, entirely out of stem cells.

She presented her team’s findings at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in New Orleans.

“The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks,” she told the Daily Mail. “There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully functioning heart, but my prediction is that it may one day be possible to grow entire organs for transplant.”

The breakthrough is a follow-up on work Dr. Taylor completed in 2008 in which her team used stem cells to rebuild the hearts of rats. They removed all the muscle cells in a rat heart, leaving just a “scaffold” of other tissues such as blood vessels and valves. This scaffold was then repopulated with stem cells, which took their cues from the scaffold tissue to regenerate healthy, functioning heart muscle.

Another scientific breakthrough for ethical adult stem cells.

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