Islets of Hope
Links to more information about stem cells
Ethics of Embryonic Stem Cell Harvesting and Research vs. the Ethics of Being Human. Islets of Hope Editorial, by Lahle Wolfe, May 6, 2006
Stem Cells May Avert Amputation - Using a patient's own stem cells, Indiana University doctors are pioneering a new way to prevent amputations in people with severe peripheral arterial disease. Known as PAD, it is a vascular disorder that affects the blood circulation in the feet, legs, kidney, stomach and arms. 07/11/2006
Hope Stem Cells will Help Heart Patients - Sufferers of Australia's number one killer - cardiovascular disease - are being offered new hope of treatment by world-first stem cell research in Adelaide. 07/11/2006
Experiment Could be Male Infertility Breakthrough - In a breakthrough that could help improve the treatment of male infertility, scientists have produced mice using sperm grown in the laboratory from embryonic stem cells. 07/10/2006
Diabetes Research Developments main Research page
Present, Potential & Future Treatment Using Stem Cells
For over 30 years, bone marrow (adult) stem cells have been used to treat cancer patients with conditions such as leukemia and lymphoma. During chemotherapy, most growing cells are killed by the cytotoxic agents. These agents not only kill the leukemia or neoplastic cells, but also those which release the stem cells from the bone-marrow. These are therefore removed before chemotherapy, and are re-injected afterwards.
Potential & Future Treatments
Diabetes - See "Stem Cell Research and Diabetes."
Cancer - Research injecting neural (adult) stem cells into the brains of rats can be very successful in treating cancerous tumors. With traditional techniques brain cancer is almost impossible to treat because it spreads so rapidly. Researchers at the Harvard Medical School injected adult stem cells genetically engineered to convert a separately injected non-toxic substance into a cancer-killing agent. Within days the adult stem cells had migrated into the cancerous area and the injected substance was able to reduce tumor mass by 80 percent.
Spinal Cord Injury - According to the October 7, 2005 issue of The Week, University of California researchers injected stem cells from aborted human fetuses into paralyzed mice, which resulted in the mice regaining the ability to move and walk four months later. The researchers discovered upon dissecting the mice that the stem cells regenerated not only the neurons, but also the cells of the myelin sheath, a layer of cells with which nerve fibers communicate with the brain (damage to which is often the cause of neurological injury in humans).
In January 2005, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison differentiated human blastocyst stem cells into neural stem cells, then into the beginnings of motor neurons, and finally into spinal motor neuron cells, the cell type that, in the human body, transmits messages from the brain to the spinal cord. The newly generated motor neurons exhibited electrical activity, the signature action of neurons. Lead researcher Su-Chun Zhang described the process as "you need to teach the blastocyst stem cells to change step by step, where each step has different conditions and a strict window of time."
Transforming blastocyst stem cells into motor neurons had eluded researchers for decades. The next step will be to test if the newly generated neurons can communicate with other cells when transplanted into a living animal; the first test will be in chicken embryos. Su-Chun said their trial-and-error study helped them learn how motor neuron cells, which are key to the nervous system, develop in the first place.
The new cells could be used to treat diseases like Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries.
Muscle Damage - Adult stem cells are also apparently able to repair muscle damaged after heart attacks. Heart attacks are due to the coronary artery being blocked, starving tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Days after the attack is over, the cells try to remodel themselves in order to become able to pump harder. However, because of the decreased blood flow this attempt is futile and results in even more muscle cells weakening and dying. Researchers at Columbia-Presbyterian found that injecting bone-marrow stem cells, a form of adult stem cells, into mice which had heart attacks induced resulted in an improvement of 33 percent in the functioning of the heart. The damaged tissue had regrown by 68 percent.
Heart Damage - Using the patient's own bone marrow derived stem cells or more recently, peripheral blood-derived stem cells, Dr. Amit Patel at the University of Pittsburgh, McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine has shown a dramatic increase in ejection fraction for patients with congestive heart failure.
Low Blood Supply - In December 2004, a team of researchers led by Dr. Luc Douay at the University of Paris developed a method to produce large numbers of red blood cells. Further research into his technique will have potential benefits to gene therapy, blood transfusion, and topical medicine.
Baldness - Hair follicles also contain stem cells,
and some researchers predict research on these follicle stem cells may lead to
successes in treating baldness
through "hair multiplication," also known as "hair cloning," as early as 2007. Hair
Cloning Nears Reality as Baldness Cure (WebMD Nov. 2004)
Blindness - Since 2003, researchers have successfully transplanted corneal and limbal stem cells into damaged eyes to restore vision. Using cultured stems cells from aborted fetuses, scientists are able to grow a thin sheet of totipotent stem cells in the laboratory. When these sheets are transplanted over the eye, the stem cells stimulate renewed repair, eventually restoring vision.
The latest development was in June of 2005, when researchers at the Queen Victoria Hospital of Sussex, England were able to restore the sight of forty patients using the same technique. The group, led by Dr. Sheraz Daya, was able to successfully use adult stem cells obtained from the patient, a relative, or even a cadaver. Further rounds of trials are ongoing.
As more research yields increasingly precise techniques, stem cell transplantation to restore vision may become viable on a large scale. However, the success rate of the procedure is still low, from 20 to 70 percent, and further clinical research is intensely required before any credible claim can be made.
Page Updated 07/15/2006