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Human stem cell research

Major events during 2013 & 2014

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News items:

  • 2013-FEB-19: Stem cell therapy clinic moves to Mexico: Celltex Therapeutics Corp. of Houston TX decided to move to Mexico in order to be out of the reach of FDA regulations. They perform autologous stem cell injection therapy which involves extracting adult stem cells, usually from fat tissue, concentrating the stem cells, and then injecting them back into the patient. The goal is to have the stem cells improve the patient's medical condition. However, proof that this process actually helps the patient is scant and thus the FDA has not approved of the treatment. 3

  • 2013-MAR-21: Researchers have found a method of expanding stem cells prior to transplantation: Research teams at Weill Cornell Medical College and Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has developed a technique for expanding adult hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) outside of the human body, and maintaining them in a stem-like state for long intervals without risk that they might spontaneously differentiate into specialized blood cell types before they are transplanted into a patient. Senior investigator, Dr. Pengbo Zhou, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Weill Cornell said:

    "Our work demonstrates that we can overcome a major technical hurdle in the expansion of adult blood stem cells, making it possible, for the first time, to produce them on an industrial scale. ... The immediate goal is for us to see if we can take fewer blood stem cells from a donor and expand them for transplant. That way more people may be more likely to donate. If many people donate, then we can type the cells before we freeze and bank them, so that we will know all the immune characteristics. The hope is that when a patient needs a bone marrow transplant to treat cancer or another disease, we can find the cells that match, expand them and use them." 5

  • 2013-MAY-03: Warning issued by stem cell researchers: An international group of leading stem cell researchers issued a statement of concern in the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Journal about the unregulated use of unproven stem cell therapies. In 2012, the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) which is similar to the FDA in the U.S., ordered that unapproved stem cell therapy programs being conducted at the Brescia Civilial Hospital be stopped because there was no real evidence that the treatments were successful. Public protests led to the Minister of Health of Italy reversing the AIFA order. Thirteen Italian stem cell researchers sent an open letter to the Minister, objecting to the reversal. The article said, in part:

    "The treatment, offered by a private non-medical organization, may not be safe, lacks a rationale, and violates current national laws and European regulation. [The authors understand the augment for reinstating treatment in the Italian case was that] safety is not a concern in the face of severely ill children or adults, for whom there are no therapeutic alternatives. ... Compassion only applies when one offers a safe and potentially effective remedy. That a remedy is effective must be supported by published clinical data. If such data are not available, there is no legitimate assumption of effectiveness in the individual patient, and therefore no 'compassion'." 4

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  • 2013-JUL-11: Ear cells from stem cells: Indiana University researchers have been able to create inner-ear cells from adult stem cells. Lead researcher, Dr. Eri Hashino, said:

    " We were surprised to see that once stem cells are guided to become inner-ear precursors and placed in 3-D culture, these cells behave as if they knew not only how to become different cell types in the inner ear, but also how to self-organize into a pattern remarkably similar to the native inner ear," Dr. Hashino said. "Our initial goal was to make inner-ear precursors in culture, but when we did testing we found thousands of hair cells in a culture dish.""

    The study involved embryonic stem cell from mice. However in the future the team will attempt replicate these processes in to produce human inner ear cells. According to Science Daily, this line of research may lead to:

    "... laboratory models of disease, drug discovery and potential treatments for hearing loss and balance disorders."

  • 2013-SEP-17: StemCells, Inc continues clinical trials for for its dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) therapy:

    AMD affects 10 million people in the U.S. and 30 million worldwide. There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for the disease which progressively robs older people of their sight.

    The trial has been underway since 2012-OCT. The first four patients in the trial received a transplant of 200,000 neural stem cells. A review of results showed no safety problems. A fifth patient has received a transplant on one million cells. The trial has been expanded to five U.S. sites. 6

  • 2014-JUL: Stem cell study cured blindness in rats:

A research team at Moorfields Eye Hospital and University College London successfully rebuilt retinas in rats. The British Broadcasting Corporation reported:

    "Prof. Chris Mason, from University College London, said:

    'I think they have made a major step forward here, but the efficiency is still too low for clinical uses. At the moment the numbers of tiny and it will take quite a bit of work to get the numbers up and then the next question is 'Can you do it in man?' But I think it is a significant breakthrough which may lead to cell therapies and will give a much expanded knowledge on how to cure blindness.'

    Dr Marcelo Rivolta, from the University of Sheffield, said the study was a 'huge leap' forward for treating blindness and could have implications across stem cell research. 7

  • 2014-SEP: Pluripotent stem cells to be tested:

    The first test of the clinical value of induced pluripotent stem cells was conducted in Kobe, Japan. The procedure was performed by ophthalmologist Masayo Takahashi of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) . 8

    The first person to receive retinal tissue derived from these stem cells is a Japanese woman in her 70's. She suffers from age-related macular degeneration, a disease that mostly affects older individuals. It causes a degeneration in vision that can lead to blindness. Doctor Yasuo Kurimoto and her team at Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, implanted a 1.3 by 3.0 millimetre sheet of retinal pigment epithelium cells into one of her eyes. According to Nature magazine, the implant is not expected to cure or even improve the patient's eye sight. They hope that it will prevent further degregation of her sight.

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Related essays on this web site:

Cloning and stem cell research are unrelated lines of research. However, they both start with an ovum and initially use some of the same techniques.

bulletWhen does human personhood begin?
bulletHuman cloning
bulletPre-implantation genetic diagnosis
bulletTherapeutic cloning

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References used in the above essay:

  1. Regina Bailey, "Ear cells from stem cells," About.com, 2013-JUL-11, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  2. "Researchers create inner ear from stem cells, opening potential for new treatments," Science Daily, 2013-JUL-10, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/
  3. Paul Diehl, "Stem cell therapy clinic flees to Mexico to avoid FDA," About.com, 2013-FEB-19, at: http://biotech.about.com/
  4. Paul Diehl, "Leading researchers emphasize need to regulate stem cell therapy," About.com, 2013-MAY-04, at: http://biotech.about.com/
  5. "New method developed to expand blood stem cells for bone marrow transplant," ScienceDaily, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.sciencedaily.com
  6. "StemCells, Inc. Increases Dosing in Dry AMD Clinical Trial," Foundation Fighting Blindness, 2013-SEP-17, at: https://www.blindness.org
  7. "Big leap' towards curing blindness in stem cell study." British Broadcasting Corporation, 2014-JUL-21, at: http://www.bbc.com/
  8. David Cyranoski, "Next-generation stem cells cleared for human trial," Nature Journal, 2014-SEP-10, at: http://www.nature.com/
  9. David Cyranoski, "Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells," Nature Journal, 2014-SEP-12, at: http://www.nature.com/

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Useful resource:

Science Daily provides a free subscription to daily and weekly email newsletters. See "Free Subscriptions" at the bottom of Science Daily's home page at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2014-FEB-01
Latest update: 2014-SEP-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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