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Embryonic Stem Cells Unnecessary for Medical Progress
Reporting on new research by Dr. Donald Orlic of the National Institutes of Health and others, indicating that adult bone marrow stem cells can help repair, and restore function in, damaged hearts: "Until now, researchers thought that stem cells from embryos offered the best hope for rebuilding damaged organs, but this latest research shows that the embryos, which are politically controversial, may not be necessary. 'We are currently finding that these adult stem cells can function as well, perhaps even better than, embryonic stem cells,' Orlic said."
- "Approach may repair heart damage," MSNBC, March 30, 2001 (www.msnbc.com/news/552456.asp)
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"Umbilical cords discarded after birth may offer a vast new source of repair material for fixing brains damaged by strokes and other ills, free of the ethical concerns surrounding the use of fetal tissue, researchers said Sunday."
- "Umbilical cords could repair brains," Associated Press, February 20, 2001
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"PPL Therapeutics, the company that cloned Dolly the sheep, has succeeded in 'reprogramming' a cell -- a move that could lead to the development of treatments for diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The Scotland-based group will today announce that it has turned a cow's skin cell into a beating heart cell and is close to starting research on humans... The PPL announcement...will be seen as an important step towards producing stem cells without using human embryos."
- "PPL follows Dolly with cell breakthrough," Financial Times, February 23, 2001
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"[O]rgan-specific adult stem cells appear to display much more plasticity than originally thought. Stem cells isolated from one tissue can differentiate into a variety of unrelated cell types and tissues... These findings raise the exciting possibility of using bone marrow transplantation to treat a wide variety of disorders, such as muscular dystrophies, Parkinson disease, stroke, and hepatic failure."
- E. Kaji and J. Leiden, "Gene and Stem Cell Therapies," Journal of the American Medical Association, February 7, 2001, p. 547
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"[S]ince adult bone marrow has recently been found to contain stem cells of previously unrecognized 'plasticity' that are able to form a variety of types of cell -- muscle, liver, neural, bone, cartilage, endothelial, and perhaps others -- it may be possible to use marrow stem cells in cytotherapeutic approaches to a wide spectrum of diseases, such as cardiac disorders, muscular dystrophy, liver disease, neurodegenerative conditions, and joint diseases.
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- A. Eaves, Book Review of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Therapy by E. Ball et al., New England Journal of Medicine, February 8, 2001, p. 463
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Commenting on research using adult stem cells to form new muscles, nerves, liver cells, and blood vessels: "None of these approaches use embryonic stem cells, which some oppose on ethical grounds. Another advantage is that they use tissue taken from the patient's own body, so there is no risk of rejection or need for drugs to suppress immune system defenses."
- "Approach may renew worn hearts," Associated Press, November 12, 2000
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"Early results suggest that ductal tissue taken from human cadavers can be grown in culture to form functioning [pancreatic] islet cells. Such a source of tissue... could prove better than relying on fetal tissue, and may even lead eventually to autologous pancreatic transplants."
- A. Berger, "Transplanted pancreatic stem cells can reverse diabetes in mice," British Medical Journal, 18 March 2000, p. 736.
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Researchers have found that bone marrow stem cells from children and adults can "become brain cells and liver cell precursors, plus all three kinds of muscle - heart, skeletal and smooth... Besides skirting the ethical dilemmas surrounding research on embryonic and fetal stem cells, adult cells ... might have another advantage: They may be easier to manage."
- G. Vogel, "Can Old Cells Learn New Tricks?" Science, February 25, 2000, p.1418-1419
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"[T]he adult central nervous system, long thought not to contain cells capable of dividing, in fact harbors stem cells. Such cells may help treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. In addition, ...hematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow may one day provide transplants to replace blood and immune cells."
- P. Hines, B. Purnell, J. Marx, "Stem Cells Branch Out," Science, February 25, 2000, p. 1417
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Reporting on the March 2000 news that scientists have cured diabetes in mice using adult pancreatic stem cells, the Alliance for Aging Research called this "the most promising sign to date that stem cell research might yield remarkable treatments for currently incurable diseases." (The Alliance spearheads a political coalition demanding federal funding of embryonic stem cells, and had earlier claimed that adult stem cells hold little promise for treating such diseases.)
- Alliance for Aging Research, www.agingresearch.org/News/newsfront/news-frnt97.htm
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"While Geron (Corp.) has nabbed the early lead in exploiting embryonic and primordial fetal stem cells, almost a dozen other biotech firms are elbowing their way into a crowded field to develop therapies using so-called "adult" stem cells. Once thought to be less versatile than primordial stem cells because they have already made a commitment to become particular cell types, these cells are now turning out to have greater than expected capabilities. What's more, they pose fewer ethical problems because they can be obtained from sources other than embryos or aborted fetuses. And the companies using them argue that it may require less work to transform them into specialized cells for transplantation."
- E. Marshall, "The Business of Stem Cells," Science, February 25, 2000, pp.1418-1419
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The fact that nerve stem cells "can de-differentiate and reinvent themselves" as blood-producing stem cells "means that the need for fetal cells as a source of stem cells for medical research may soon be eclipsed by the more readily available and less controversial adult stem cells."
- D. Josefson, "Adult stem cells may be redefinable," British Medical Journal, 30 Jan. 1999, p. 282
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Commenting on the same findings: "The research shows 'there are alternative strategies' to harvesting stem cells from embryos, said Dr. Ronald McKay, a National Institutes of Health researcher and a pioneer in stem cell studies."
- P. Recer, "Patient's Cells May Grow New Organs," Associated Press, Jan. 21, 1999
Recent research shows that mesenchymal stem cells in adult bone marrow "can in principle be used to repair bone, cartilage, tendon and many other injured or aged tissues... The cells would be derived in many cases from the patient's own bone marrow and thus present no problem of immune rejection."
- N. Wade, "Discovery Bolsters a Hope for Regeneration," New York Times, April 2, 1999, p. A17
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Due to advances in the use of the anti-aging enzyme telomerase, "the ability to rejuvenate specific cells in the body opens up a dazzling array of possibilities. Doctors could grow skin grafts for burn victims using their own skin, insulin-producing cells for diabetics, or muscle tissue for sufferers of muscular dystrophy."
- R. Larson, "Scientists find new life for old cells," Washington Times, Dec. 29, 1998, p. A1
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Adult "precursor" or stem cells "may prove much more useful to medical science" than embryonic cells. "Scientists used to think that such potential for cellular regeneration was present only in embryos -- that, for example, humans had made their lifetime supply of brain cells by age 17. But that canon is steadily eroding... 'I think we will find these stem cells in any organ that we look,' says Harvard Medical School researcher Evan Y. Snyder."
- L. Johannes, "Adult Stem Cells Have Advantage Battling Disease," Wall Street Journal, April 13, 1999, p. B1
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"This suggests that there is a stem cell in the adult bone marrow that is capable of becoming anything if you give it the right signal."
- Bryon Petersen of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, quoted in P. Recer, "Cell Used to Make New Liver Tissue," Associated Press, May 13, 1999
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Commenting on new ways to "regenerate" and transplant patients' own brain cells to treat Parkinson's and other diseases: "What we have is a protocol in which we don't have to harvest 12 or 15 fetuses, we don't have to give immunosuppressant therapy, and we don't have to worry about viral disease transmission."
- Michel Levesque, director of neurofunctional surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, quoted in M. Moran, "For cell transplants, is one brain better than two?", American Medical News, May 3, 1999, p. 29
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"For generations, scientific dogma held that the adult brain cannot repair itself, because it lacks stem cells. Wrong. Recently, scientists found that adult brains do indeed harbor stem cells... Since stem cells divide endlessly, a single sample started from a human fetus could provide all that's needed. But the recipient's immune system might attack these as foreign. Perhaps the patient's own body is a better source of stem cells... [Moreover,] brain stem cells may not be a necessary ingredient for custom-making new brain tissue. Scientists believe it may be possible to reprogram more readily available kinds of stem cells, such as the ones that produce skin, so that they will churn out brain cells, instead."
- D. Haney, "Scientists Try to Grow Brain Parts," Associated Press, May 1, 1999