Monday, June 1, 2009

Stem Cell News

"So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science." -- Richard Feynman in Cargo Cult Science

Several Stories have been in the news recently. On the adult stem cell side, we have Adult Bone Marrow Stem Cells Injected Into Skeletal Muscle Can Repair Heart Tissue. According to this article, injecting adult bone marrow stem cells into skeletal muscle can repair cardiac tissue, reversing heart failure. Adult stem cells have been used to repair heart tissue before, but this method is non-invasive, eliminating the risks of heart surgery.

Also in the news is Combined Stem Cell-Gene Therapy Approach Cures Human Genetic Disease In Vitro. According to this article there is proof of a cure in humans of Fanconi anemia, a genetic disorder that impairs the body's ability to fight infection, deliver oxygen, and clot blood. Hair or skin cells are taken from the patient with Fanconi anemia, the defective gene is corrected in the cells, then the cells are transformed into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The resulting FA-iPS cells were indistinguishable from human embryonic stem cells and iPS cells generated from healthy donors.

Wow! Great news of important cures using research that is ethical and doesn't disregard human rights! Let's take a look at research in the news using embryonic stem cells.

First is Method To Neutralize Tumor Growth In Embryonic Stem Cell Therapy Discovered. This article talks about the dangers of tumor formation using embryonic stems cells, and a theory being looked into at the Hebrew University that would suppress certain genes in the embryonic cells, that might lessen the chance of tumor formation. According to the article the inhibition of genes before or after transplantation could minimize the chances of tumor formation, but the researchers caution that a combination of strategies may be needed to address the major safety concerns regarding tumor formation by human embryonic stem cells.

Next is Case Report Of A Brain And Spinal Tumor Following Human Fetal Stem Cell Therapy. The article describes how doctors (unclear who they are from this article) from the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel, report the case of a boy with a rare genetic disease, Ataxia Telangiectasia, who underwent human fetal stem cell therapy at an unrelated clinic in Moscow and who, four years after the therapy began, was shown to have abnormal growths in his brain and spinal cord. The article goes on to say that although this report indicates the need for caution in stem cell therapy, the authors conclude that their findings "do not imply that the research in stem cell therapeutics should be abandoned. They do, however, suggest that extensive research into the biology of stem cells and in-depth preclinical studies, especially of safety, should be pursued in order to maximize the potential benefits of regenerative medicine while minimizing the risks."

Where would you spend your research dollars? On dangerous, ethically and morally reprehensible research that so far has produced suffering instead of cures, or on research that is actually working and harms nobody.

Of course, even if embryonic stem cell research were curing cancer and saving GM, that still wouldn't make it right to be killing human beings.


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