Adult Stem Cells – News Highlights

Continuing our steadfast mission to increase public awareness of adult stem cells, SFLF regularly combs the media for trustworthy stem cell news that highlight advances in research and treatment breakthroughs. We would like to take a moment and reflect on some of the achievements made in adult stem cell science since our last newsletter in Spring 2012.

• In October, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Sir John B. Gurdon and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent (immature cells), capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Gurdon experimented with cell reversal in 1962, when he replaced an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. The modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. More than 40 years later, in 2006 Yamanaka discovered how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed into pluripotent, immature stem cells. By reprogramming mature cells, scientists and the global health care community at large see an extraordinary opportunity to study disease and develop more cellular therapies and cures.

• In August, a US federal court ruled in favor of legally funding human embryonic stem cell research at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Opponents of this ruling feel that this is a violation of the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment, preventing US tax funding for embryos that are destroyed or discarded. Adult stem cell advocates feel that adult stem cells hold the most promise for treating a myriad of diseases.

• At the July AIDS 2012 Conference in Washington, DC, researchers discussed two HIV-positive men who are HIV-free after bone marrow treatments. According to one of the co-researchers, Dr. Timothy J. Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, cells that repopulated the patient’s immune system appear to be immune from becoming re-infected with HIV because of concerns with effectiveness and safety. After a stroke, a part of the brain generally dies from a lack of oxygen and blood flow. At this point, the proper dose and proper techniques are unknown to produce a clinical benefit. The stem cells die away over time, yet the hope is that they will secrete substances to help repair and reconnect brain cells.

• UCLA announced a new development in bone growth regarding a treatment of fresh, purified fat stem cells. UCLA stem cell scientists purified a subset of stem cells from fat tissue and used the stem cells to grow bone. They discovered that the bone formed faster and was of higher quality than bone grown using traditional methods. The finding may one day eliminate the need for painful bone grafts that use material taken from patients during invasive procedures.

• Dr. Edward P. Ingenito (Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine) announced his findings from a study on emphysema. The study showed that when autologous (self-donated) lung-derived mesenchymal stem cells were transplanted into adult female sheep modeled with emphysema, the sheep showed evidence of tissue regeneration with increased blood perfusion, post-transplant. Researchers concluded that their approach could represent a practical alternative to conventional treatments for emphysema.

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