Regular readers of this blog (and my blog Reflections of a Paralytic) know that I am a steadfast advocate for ethical research and treatments and I will frequently point out the ineffectiveness of embryonic stem cell research and the existence of more effective and ethical alternatives. Although I make it a point to stress the fact that, in the final analysis, the question of whether or not science should proceed with ESCR is really a matter of ethics, not science (in other words, it’s not a battle between ASC and ESC research, that’s not the point) – it still really bothers me when successful, ethical research is constantly dismissed or belittled by those who advocate destroying tiny human beings in the name of science.
A commenter on this post from Regular Guy Paul’s blog recently objected to some claims against ESCR by quoting from this piece on Scienceblogs.com regarding the claims from adult stem cell research advocates that ASCs have treated over 72 different diseases and/or disabilities. The author’s main objection is that there aren’t actually 72 “different” treatments, but only one treatment (Hematopoietic stem cell replacement of bone marrow) for most of those 72 conditions.
First of all, those of us who use that list of 72 ASC successes, don’t claim that it’s 72 different treatments, but that – in humans – 72 different diseases and conditions are or have been treated with ASCs – whether it was the “same” treatment or not – something that cannot be said of ESCs, even in animal models. At any rate, he goes on to say:
while these cells (ASCs) are great at doing their job, the issue with adult stem cell research is, can they do another stem cell’s job? That is, instead of making just blood, could a hematopoietic stem cell make, say, an insulin secreting pancreatic cell? The answer, despite some initial promising results around 2001, is no.
And the commenter asserts:
ASCs don’t look like they have the potential to rebuild organs or repair the CNS…Hematopoietic stem cell replacement of marrow is a far simpler matter than using ESCs to treat Parkinson’s or spinal cord injuries, or to regenerate livers and kidneys.
It must be said here that, although they have had the most success, there is way more to ASCs than just those derived from bone marrow and these folks are ignoring some pretty significant advancements that have been made in ASCR (though, in their defense they may have never seen these stories as they are typically not carried by any mainstream media outlets.) A few examples:
Re: ASCs and insulin:
5/25/07, scientists are able to make umbilical cord blood produce insulin. 3/17/09, scientists successfully use a gene called neurogenin3 to induce cells in the liver to produce insulin. said Dr. Vijay Yechoor: “They look similar to normal pancreatic islet cells (that make insulin normally).”
ASCs and Parkinson’s:
Dennis Turner was treated for Parkinson’s disease with his own neural stem cells, taken from his brain, nearly ten years ago. He went into a significant remission that lasted for about four or five years before symptoms returned. This study has now been peer-reviewed as of 2/09 and phase II trials are now in the works.
Another study with humans: Stem Cell Implant to the Brain Helps Improve Parkinson’s Symptoms – said Dr. Augusto Brazzini Armestar, MD, Director, Instituto Brazzini Radiologos Asociados, Lima, Peru when it was presented at a recent meeting for the Society of Interventional Radiology: “Stem cells from bone marrow have the ability to differentiate into neurons and other tissues”
Most recently: researchers at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., have converted skin cells from people with Parkinson’s disease into the general type of neuron that the disease destroys.
ASCs and Spinal Cord Injury:
I just did a post last week on the latest ASC-SCI success in which SCI patients were treated with bone marrow derived stem cells and received increased bladder control, regained mobility and sensation. A video accompanies the amazing story.
I link to a number of other stories on that post of SCI being treated with bone marrow derived stem cells, however, the most famous SCI study comes from Dr. Carlos Lima’s treatment of SCI patients with stem cells from their own noses using olfactory mucosa autograft transplantation – not bone marrow.
ASCs regenerating organs:
Last November scientists conducted the first stem cell derived organ transplant when they grew a new windpipe using the patients own stem cells both from bone marrow and cells taken from the healthy part of her own trachea.
Scientists have been able to grow a beating heart in the lab using ASCs.
Study uses bone marrow stem cells to regenerate skin.
There is evidence that stem cells taken from a patient’s nose could produce dopamine-producing brain cells when transplanted into the brain.
Heart derived stem cells have developed into heart muscle.
Australian trials found the injection of adult stem cells – taken from human donors’ bone marrow, abdominal fat, hip, skin or teeth – protected damaged knee cartilage for up to nine months.
Uterine Stem Cells Create New Neurons That Can Curb Parkinson’s Disease.
There have been impressive results in clinical trials using bone marrow, muscle, and fat cells in in heart therapies.
A Finnish man was able to replace his upper jaw thanks to stem cells taken from his own fatty tissue.
a 50 year old man awaiting a heart transplant was treated with muscle stem cells taken out of his thigh.
According to a Japanese study, doctors have used stem cells from liposuctioned fat to fix breast defects in women after they have undergone breast cancer surgery.
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.
Stem cells collected at birth from the umbilical cord may help doctors fashion new heart valves for children born with heart valve defects.
Louisville clinical trial will use cardiac stem cells to regrow muscle after attack
From a snippet of a patient’s skin, researchers have grown blood vessels in a laboratory and then implanted them to restore blood flow around the patient’s damaged arteries and veins.
Heart valves have been grown from cells in the womb.
And I’ll just end with this one since this is starting to get rather lengthy: Scientists have been able to grow a beating heart in the lab.
Obviously there’s much more than just bone marrow replacement here and ASCs are showing themselves to be way more diverse and useful than was ever originally thought. To assert otherwise is to simply ignore science and dismiss real advancements that are being made in either treating patients now or developing treatments for the future – this with science that does not use or destroy tiny human beings in the process.
As well as keeping your eye on this blog, also check out my ASCR archive at Reflections and Don Margolis’ blog for the latest in ASCR news and successes.