October 25, 2005


Raise a Glass to Adult Stem Cells (Michael Fumento, 10/24/2005, TCS)

I have frequently written on the gulf between the promise of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and the reality of therapy from adult stem cells (ASCs) -- those already in our bodies and umbilical cord blood. ESCs get publicity; ASCs get results. The latest example: ASCs are now rebuilding human livers.

Until now, the only hope for persons with irreversible liver failure from such diseases as cirrhosis, which kills about 27,000 Americans yearly, was transplantation. This requires permanent use of immunosuppressive drugs which can lead to opportunistic infections and cancer. Most importantly, it requires a new liver. About a thousand Americans are now on a waiting list for one and many will die there.

But scientists from London's Imperial College report in The New Scientist that they have repaired patients' own damaged livers by using bone marrow adult stem cells collected from their own blood. Five were injected with a drug that stimulated their marrow to produce extra stem cells that were then injected into a blood vessel leading directly to the liver.

It worked. Both liver function and overall health of three out of five treated patients improved significantly within only two months of treatment. The two patients whose health did not improve were left no worse off.

The researchers said the marrow stem cells appeared to simply home in on damaged portions of the liver and affect repairs, just as ASCs previously have been shown to do with other organs thought unable to repair themselves such as hearts and brains.

Most recently, Korean researchers injected umbilical cord stem cells into the injured part of a paraplegic's spine, allowing her to walk again.

Somebody better tell John Edwards to race to the crossroads and yell: Backsies!

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2005 1:49 PM

I'm sure Ted Kennedy's liver is glad to hear about this.

Posted by: h-man at October 25, 2005 2:59 PM

Results don't matter. Those who try to place any constraints on Science with morality must be defeated. That is what this is all about.

Posted by: b at October 25, 2005 3:31 PM

Things can't be unlearned or uninvented. Knowledge can't be restrained by law. All we can do is continue to strive toward a world where knowledge is used wisely.

I hope the stem cell research reported isn't just a bunch of media hype to beat Bush around the head. Nothing could be crueler than giving false hope to those who are grievously afflicted.

Posted by: tefta at October 25, 2005 5:07 PM

Of course things can be "uninvented." Hitler did experiments on prisoners, but we find that morally repugnant so we don't do it anymore. The differences to the current situation are incidental.

Meanwhile, yes, I'm afraid it is all hype to some extent. There are lots of other research areas with huge potential, but they are ignored because no one has moral problems with them.

Posted by: Timothy at October 25, 2005 6:16 PM