Stem cell treatments

Stem cell treatments

Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering. A number of stem cell treatments exist, although most are still experimental and/or costly, with the notable exception of bone marrow transplantation. Medical researchers anticipate one day being able to use technologies derived from adult and embryonic stem cell research to treat cancer, Type 1 diabetes mellitus, spinal cord injuries, and muscle damage, as well as a number of other diseases and impairments.

Several very promising treatments of serious diseases have already been attempted, using adult stem cells. The advantage of adult stem cells over embryonic stem cells is that there are no rejection issues, because the stem cells are normally taken from the patient.

There still exists a great deal of social and scientific uncertainty surrounding embryonic stem cell research. This will, most likely, only be overcome through years of intensive research and by gaining the acceptance of the public.

Current treatments

For over 30 years, bone marrow, and more recently, umbilical cord blood 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 the haematopoietic stem cells within the bone marrow. It is this unfortunate side effect of the chemotherapy that the Stem Cell Transplant attempts to reverse; the donor's healthy bone marrow reintroduces functional stem cells to replace those lost in the treatment. In all current Stem Cell treatments obtaining Stem Cells from a matched Donor is preferable to using the patients own. If (always as a last resort and usually because no matched Donor can be found) it is deemed necessary for the patients own stem cells to be used and the patient has not stored their own collection of stem cells (umbilical cord blood), bone marrow samples must therefore be removed before chemotherapy, and are re-injected afterwards.Fact|date=October 2007

Potential treatments

=Brain da

Stroke and traumatic brain injury lead to cell death, characterized by a loss of neurons and oligodendrocytes within the brain. Healthy adult brains contain neural stem cells, these divide and act to maintain general stem cell numbers or become progenitor cells. In healthy adult animals, progenitor cells migrate within the brain and function primarily to maintain neuron populations for olfaction (the sense of smell). Interestingly, in pregnancy and after injury, this system appears to be regulated by growth factors and can increase the rate at which new brain matter is formed. In the case of brain injury, although the reparative process appears to initiate, substantial recovery is rarely observed in adults, suggesting a lack of robustness.

Recently, results from research conducted in rats subjected to stroke, suggested that administration of drugs to increase the stem cell division rate and direct the survival and differentiation of newly formed cells could be successful. In the study referenced below, biological drugs were administered after stroke to activate two key steps in the reparative process. Findings from this study seem to support a new strategy for the treatment of stroke using a simple elegant approach, aimed at directing recovery from stroke by potentially protecting and/or regenerating new tissue. The authors found that, within weeks, recovery of brain structure is accompanied by recovery of lost limb function suggesting the potential for development of a new class of stroke therapy or brain injury therapy in humans.Fact|date=October 2007


Research injecting neural (adult) stem cells into the brains of dogs has shown to be 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 induced intracranial tumours in rodents. Then, they injected human neural stem cells. Within days the cells had migrated into the cancerous area and produced "cytosine deaminase", an enzyme that converts a non-toxic pro-drug into a chemotheraputic agent. As a result, the injected substance was able to reduce tumor mass by 81 percent. The stem cells neither differentiated nor turned tumorigenic. [] Some researchers believe that the key to finding a cure for cancer is to inhibit cancer stem cells, where the cancer tumor originates. Currently, cancer treatments are designed to kill all cancer cells, but through this method, researchers would be able to develop drugs to specifically target these stem cells. [ [ "Cancer Stem Cells Hint at Cure" at] ]

pinal cord injury

A team of Korean researchers reported on November 25, 2004, that they had transplanted multipotent adult stem cells from an umbilical cord blood to a patient suffering from a spinal cord injury and that she can now walk on her own, without difficulty. The patient had not been able stand up for roughly 19 years. The team was co-headed by researchers at Chosun University, Seoul National University and the [ Seoul Cord Blood Bank] (SCB). For the unprecedented clinical test, the scientists isolated adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood and then injected them into the damaged part of the spinal cord. [ [ Page Error : 찾으시는 Page의 URL이 잘못되었거나 없습니다 ] ] [] [ [ Umbilical cord cells 'allow paralysed woman to walk' - Telegraph ] ] [ [] Dead link|date=March 2008]

The Korean researchers have followed up on their original work. The original treatment was conducted in November 2004. On April 18, 2005, the researchers announced that they will be conducting a second treatment on the woman. [ [ Page Error : 찾으시는 Page의 URL이 잘못되었거나 없습니다 ] ] The researchers have followed up with a case study write-up on their work. It is located in the journal [,8,9;journal,2,41;linkingpublicationresults,1:107693,1 "Cytotherapy"] . [ [ A 37-year-old spinal cord-injured female patient, ... [Cytotherapy. 2005 - PubMed Result ] ]

According to the October 7, 2005 issue of "The Week", University of California researchers injected human embryonic stem cells 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 which insulates neural impulses and speeds them up, facilitating communication 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.

=Heart da

Several clinical trials targeting heart disease have shown that adult stem cell therapy is safe and effective. Adult stem cell therapy for heart disease was commercially available on at least five continents at the last count (2007).

Haematopoiesis (blood cell formation)

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. The Nature Biotechnology paper, entitled [ "Ex vivo" generation of fully mature human red blood cells] , describes the process: precursor red blood cells, called hematopoietic stem cells, are grown together with stromal cells, creating an environment that mimics the conditions of bone marrow, the natural site of red blood cell growth. Erythropoietin, a growth factor, is added, coaxing the stem cells to complete terminal differentiation into red blood cells.

Further research into this technique should have potential benefits to gene therapy, blood transfusion, and topical medicine.


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. This treatment is expected to work through taking stem cells from existing follicles, multiplying them in cultures, and implanting the new follicles into the scalp. Later treatments may be able to simply signal follicle stem cells to give off chemical signals to nearby follicle cells which have shrunk during the aging process, which in turn respond to these signals by regenerating and once again making healthy hair. [ "Hair Cloning Nears Reality as Baldness Cure"] (WebMD November 2004)

Missing teeth

In 2004, scientists at King's College London discovered a way to cultivate a complete tooth in mice [ [ Dental advance will let adults grow new teeth - Telegraph ] ] and were able to grow them stand-alone in the laboratory. Researchers are confident that this technology can be used to grow live teeth in human patients.

In theory, stem cells taken from the patient could be coaxed in the lab into turning into a tooth bud which, when implanted in the gums, will give rise to a new tooth, which would be expected to take two months to grow. [ [ Teeth from scratch ] ] It will fuse with the jawbone and release chemicals that encourage nerves and blood vessels to connect with it. The process is similar to what happens when humans grow their original adult teeth. It's estimated that it may take until 2009 before the technology is widely available to the general public, but the genetic research scientist behind the technique, Professor Paul Sharpe of King's College, estimates the method could be ready to test on patients by 2007. [ [ Grow Your Own Teeth ] ] His startup company, Odontis, fully expects to offer tooth replacement therapy by year 2015-2018 []

In 2005, Cryopraxis a stem cell bank in Brazil, collected baby tooth stem cells and harvested different types of differentiated cell types including neurons. This technology may one day make baby teeth a good source of stem cells.

In the next three years, Paul Sharpe hopes to identify more-accessible stem cells that may be able to form not only teeth, but also--and more importantly--roots. [ [ Technology Review] ]


There has been success in regrowing cochlea hair cells with the use of stem cells. [ [ Gene therapy is first deafness 'cure' - health - 14 February 2005 - New Scientist ] ]

Blindness and vision impairment

Since 2003, researchers have successfully transplanted retinal stem cells into damaged eyes to restore vision. Using embryonic stem cells, scientists are able to grow a thin sheet of totipotent stem cells in the laboratory. When these sheets are transplanted over the damaged retina, the stem cells stimulate renewed repair, eventually restoring vision. [ [ Fetal tissue restores lost sight ] ] The latest such development was in June 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. [ [ BBC NEWS | England | Southern Counties | Stem cells used to restore vision ] ]

In April 2005, doctors in the UK transplanted corneal stem cells from an organ donor to the cornea of Deborah Catlyn, a woman who was blinded in one eye when an acid was thrown in her eye at a nightclub. The cornea, which is the transparent window of the eye, is a particularly suitable site for transplants. In fact, the first successful human transplant was carried out in 1905 on a cornea by Dr. Eduard Zirm. The recipient was Alois Gloger, a labourer who had been blinded in an accident. The cornea has the remarkable property that it does not contain any blood vessels, making it relatively easy to transplant. The majority of corneal transplants carried out today are due to a degenerative disease called keratoconus which causes vision impairment and has no known cure even after corneal transplant. It is hoped that stem cell research will one day provide a cure to such debilitating corneal disorders.

The University Hospital of New Jersey claims a success rate growing the new cells from transplanted stem cells varies from 25 percent to 70 percent. [ [ ] The University Hospital of New Jersey, 2002]

ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease)

In the April 4, 2001 edition of JAMA (Vol. 285, 1691-1693), [] Drs. Gearhart and Kerr of Johns Hopkins University used stem cells to cure rats of an ALS-like disease. The rats were injected with a virus to kill the spinal cord motor nerves related to leg movement. Dr. Gearhart and Dr. Kerr then injected the spinal cords of the rats with stem cells. These migrated to the sites of injury where they were able to regenerate the dead nerve cells restoring the rats which were once again able to walk.

Graft vs. host disease and Crohn's disease

Phase III clinical trials expected to end in second-quarter 2008 were conducted by Osiris Therapeutics using their in-development product Prochymal, derived from adult bone marrow. The target disorders of this therapeutic are graft-versus-host disease and Crohn's disease. [cite news | author=Querida Anderson | title= Osiris Trumpets Its Adult Stem Cell Product
url= | work=Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News
publisher=Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. | page=13 | date=2008-06-15 | accessdate=2008-07-06 | quote=(subtitle) Procymal is being developed in many indications, GvHD being the most advanced

Stem cell use in animals


Horses have been treated with stem cells since 2003, mainly to treat injuries to the tendons, ligaments, and joints of sport horses or racehorses. Fat is harvested from the tail head and processed, and an animal may receive treatment within two days after the sample is taken. Injuries that may be treated include Degenerative Joint Disease, tendonitis, suspensory ligament desmitis, Osteochondrosis, fractures, and sub-chonral bone cysts. Currently, research is also being performed on stem cell application in laminitis and COPD. [ [ Vet-Stem | Dog Stem Cell Horse & Cat | Arthritis | Tendon Ligament Joint | San Diego | Equine | Canine | VetCell ] ]


A recent double-blinded, placebo controlled study showed the effectiveness of adipose-derived stem cells in dogs with osteoarthritis, specifically, bilateral hip dysplasia ( [ Black et al, Veterinary Therapeutics, 8 (4), 2007] ). [ [ Black et al, Veterinary Therapeutics, 8 (4), 2007] ]

There is currently research being performed on chronic hepatitis and canine muscular dystrophy. This work, which has been successfully translated from mice to dogs could provide a means of treating muscular dystrophy in humans.


There is wide spread controversy over the use of embryonic stem cells. This controversy is over the technique used to create new embryonic stem cell lines, which often requires the destruction of the blastocyst.

Opposition to the use of human embryonic stem cells in research is based on moral or religious objections. Others point to the success already being achieved with stem cell therapy that does not result in the destruction of a developing human being, such as the use of cord blood cells to treat spinal cord injury paralysis or recent research in turning skin fibroblasts into embryonic stem cell-like cells, and argue that research should be aimed in those avenues with a proven safety and efficacy.

Recent updates

ome scientists see shift in stem cell hopes

It was reported in the "New York Times" (14 August 2006), by Nicholas Wade, that some scientists see a shift in stem cell hopes. Several mentioned that the main role of stem cells was in research. Many no longer see cell therapy as the first goal of the research, parting company with those whose near-term expectations for cell therapy remain high. [ Some Scientists See Shift in Stem Cell Hopes - New York Times ] ]

Thomas M. Jessell, a neurobiologist at Columbia University said "Many of us feel that for the next few years the most rational way forward is not to push stem cell therapies."

tem Cell Research and Treatment in China

Stem cell research and treatment is actively practiced in China. State funded [ Chinese Companies] based in the Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Zone [ claim] to treat the symptoms of numerous disorders with adult stem cell therapy. Hospitals throughout eastern China provide numerous therapies to patients in coordination with the stem cell providers. These companies' therapies are currently focused on the treatment of neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disorders.

Chinese stem cell research has not been restricted by the ethical dilemmas and legislative gridlock surrounding the procurement and use of human embryonic stem cells in other developed nations such as the US, UK, and Australia. These issues have also hampered the development of adult stem cell research and therapy, as unrelated a cellular origin as they may have. Most stem cell therapies provided in China utilize umbilical cord stem cells (drawn from Wharton's jelly) donated from live births. The stem cells are then expanded in centralized blood banks. Cells are delivered to patients via IV, spinal epidural, subcutaneous injection or transplantation.

While anecdotal evidence of secondary adult stem cell activity has existed for several decades alongside bone marrow transplant therapies, "off-label" uses for stem cells are strictly forbidden in the USA. There, protocols for proposed treatments are described and enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In America, the period between laboratory experimentation and clinical treatment can be decades long. Researchers actively treating patients with experimental therapies outside of carefully monitored clinical trials can be subject to harsh disciplinary action by their institutions. The Chinese [ Ministry of Health] has already accepted the use of stem cell therapy for many disorders. After years of practice, stem cell therapy is no longer considered new or dangerous in China and is regularly used by the Chinese in the treatment of the degenerative effects of Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. International "Medical Tourists" are among the thousands of patients treated in China every year for disorders the patients' home country's medical professionals offer no treatment.

External links

*Fiona Murray Ph.D., Debora Spar Ph.D. [ "Bit Player Or Powerhouse? China And Stem-Cell Research"] , "New England Journal Of Medicine" September 21, 2006 Accessed July 30, 2007
*Clive Cookson [ "Generous Staffing And Permissive Laws Aid Asia's Largest Stem Cell Effort"] , "Scientific American" June 27, 2005 Accessed July 30, 2007
* [ Stem Cell and Cord Blood information database]
* [ Stem Cell News] : Treatment details and patient histories in China
* [ Spare Parts, grown and installed] : Finnish cancer patient gets replacement parts grown from his own stem cells.
* [ Potential of Stem Cell Treatment in Autism]
* [ Status of Stem Cell Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis]
* [ Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke]


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