Adult Stem Cells Produce Treatment Breakthroughs; Research Shows Promise without Use of Embryos

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 29, 2003 | Go to article overview

Adult Stem Cells Produce Treatment Breakthroughs; Research Shows Promise without Use of Embryos


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Debate continues over human embryonic stem cell research, but medical breakthroughs have been made using adult stem cells and other body cells.

Researchers treated 250 diabetics with islet cells from the pancreases of deceased human donors, and more than 80 percent were able to stop their insulin shots for more than a year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in June.

Adult bone marrow stem cells have been shown to help repair muscle damage, say two research groups that published animal studies in the December issue of Nature.

These cells also have shown promise in treating human heart patients. In one example, 14 patients showed significant improvement in heart function for several months after receiving injections of their own bone marrow stem cells, said a study published in Circulation in March.

"It's very encouraging," said Dr. James T. Willerson, chief of cardiology at the Texas Heart Institute and one of the doctors who conducted the study. He noted a "significant improvement in blood flow" in the areas of the heart where the stem cells were injected.

Adult bone marrow stem cells also were shown to help heal three patients suffering from chronic skin wounds, said a study in the April issue of Archives of Dermatology.

Toronto scientists are taking stem cells from the eye, using them to generate new cells in a lab and transplanting the new cells into damaged eyes, hoping to improve function, Canada's Edmonton Journal reported Nov. 30.

Five Parkinson's disease patients in another study received brain injections of a natural body chemical known as glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). Symptoms improved in all five after three months. One year later, they had experienced a 61 percent improvement in their ability to perform daily activities, researchers said in the May issue of Nature Medicine. Three of the patients regained their senses of taste and smell.

Some say these advancements show that adult stem cells and other types of body cells hold more promise for medical treatments then do human embryonic stem cells. …

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