April 11, 2007


Stem cells shown to rein in Type 1 diabetes: Researchers say the experimental treatment left most patients 'absolutely medication-free' for months -- even years (Karen Kaplan, 4/11/07, LA Times)

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that the progression of Type 1 diabetes can be halted — and possibly reversed — by a stem-cell transplant that preserves the body's diminishing ability to make insulin, according to a study published today. [...]

The stem-cell approach mirrors the bone marrow transplants used to treat patients with certain cancers and blood diseases.

Bone marrow contains hematopoietic stem cells, which are able to build all of the elements of the immune system. The idea is to wipe out the faulty immune system and replace it with a new one that functions properly.

In the study, 15 Brazilian patients were treated within a few months of their diagnoses, before their immune systems had the chance to eradicate all of their insulin-producing cells. The researchers hoped to preserve enough beta cells to make insulin injections unnecessary.

The study was conducted in Brazil because of Voltarelli's interest in the experiment. It was funded by the Brazilian Ministry of Health and other sources.

The patients, ages 14 to 31, were treated with drugs and hormones that prompted the body to produce hematopoietic stem cells and send them from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, from which a machine then extracted them.

About two weeks later, the patients checked into the hospital and received chemotherapy and other drugs to kill off their immune systems over a period of five days. Side effects for most patients included nausea, vomiting and hair loss.

After a day of rest, they were infused with their own hematopoietic stem cells, which took about eight to 12 days to establish new immune systems. While the patients were without functioning immune systems, they were given antibiotics to protect them from possible infections.

The treatment had no effect on the first patient, whose disease had progressed so that his blood was dangerously acidic. He also took steroids to help him tolerate some of the drugs.

After the patient's poor results, the researchers modified the study's protocol to exclude patients with his condition, called diabetic ketoacidosis, and to remove the steroids from the drug regimen.

Of the remaining 14 patients, 12 were able to stop taking insulin shortly after their transplants. Five patients have not needed insulin injections for at least 23 months, and two have been insulin-free for more than a year and a half.

Guess how many paragraphs you have to go before they reveal the type of stem cells used?

Not that the Party of Death reads that far, Senate Revisits Debate On Stem Cell Research (Rick Weiss, 4/11/07, Washington Post )

Launching an emotional political and ethical drama that is widely expected to climax with the second veto of George W. Bush's presidency, the Senate yesterday began a two-day debate over the use of taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research.

Of course, it's not a question of what's effective but of who's human.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 11, 2007 6:34 AM

First paragraph. If they haven't mentioned it by then you know the answer. Also works if a congress critter or other politician is arrested.

Posted by: Daran at April 11, 2007 7:54 AM

I couldn't get your link to work, so here is a corrected link:
Stem cells shown to rein in Type 1 diabetes
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-stemcells11apr11,1,5296137.story?track=rss&ctrack=3&cset=true >

By my count, it is the 20th paragraph before it is clear that their own stem cells (i.e., adult stem cells) were used.

The efficacy of adult stem cells versus embryonic stem cells should not blind us to the moral horror of this experiment. Following extraction of their stem cells, the patient's immune system was "killed" by chemotherapy, wiping out all their acquired resistance to diseases and viruses. The cynic in me strongly suspects that these unfortunate people have traded a shorter-than-average life span for an even shorter life span with a compromised immune system, all for the "benefit" of not taking insulin. These patients are being used as third-world guinea pigs for the supposed advancement of medicine.

Posted by: jd watson at April 11, 2007 2:02 PM