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Dramatic Uses of Adult Stem Cells

By J.C. Willke, MD and Bradley Mattes

The biotech industry, liberal media and pro-abortion forces have created and maintained substantial public confusion on stem cells. Mostly, what we hear are the two words “stem cells.” Sometimes we hear about “embryonic stem cells.” We almost never hear about “adult stem cells.” Considerable media attention has been given to the California initiative authorizing three billion dollars for embryonic stem cell research. We have watched as other states, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, etc. attempt to appropriate tax funds for embryonic stem cell research in a stated attempt to “not lose their scientists to California.” And we certainly know of Nancy Reagan’s and the late Christopher Reeves’ support for embryonic stem cell research.

The reality of new scientific progress on stem cell research continues to flow across our desks, sometimes even weekly. There are reports from all over the world of new research using stem cells to probe the mysteries of life and specifically to find cures for human ailments and injuries. The field is alive with new discoveries happening every month. One consistent thing about all of these new reports is that they are about adult stem cells. To date, there have been no human successes in the use of embryonic stem cells. Yet, nearly all of what we hear from the so-called mainstream press and biotech industries is the promise of embryonic stem cell research.

Why is this? Are only a privileged few being told about the tremendous successes working with adult stem cells? It might almost seem so. Very few, if any, adult stem cell reports seem to find their way into the pages of our liberal newspapers or onto the lips of our liberal media. To help set the record straight, we’ve briefly itemized some of the adult stem cell research that has come to our attention in the last year or two. Some of these are quite dramatic and very recent.

Breakthroughs, Treatments and Cures
Scientists in Portugal1, 2 are using olfactory enshething glial cells from the lining of a patient’s nose to treat spinal cord injuries. Senator Brownback recently held a press conference where he introduced two young ladies, Susan and Laura, who were paralized, one a quadriplegic. Both of them are now able to walk with braces, due to adult stem cells.

In South Korea a 20-year-old quadriplegic woman received transplanted umbilical cord stem cells to the site of her spinal injury. She’s now mobile with a walker.3

In Germany, stem cells have been used to help repair skull bone damage in a seven-year-old girl. Unlike other bones, skull bones do not regenerate, hence the use of metal plates to repair the damage. Using adult stem cells, the missing bone plates were replaced by thin, solid bone. Bits of the child’s own bones, mixed with adult stem cells, produced the healing.4

London researches have been using adult stem cells in trials to treat damaged livers. They hope to colonize and grow new liver cells allowing the liver to function again.5

In the US6, Germany7, Brazil8 and France9, human patients have been treated with their own stem cells to regenerate heart muscle destroyed during a heart attack or injury. In most cases this was successful.

Twenty-three patients regained their eyesight following limbal (adult) stem cell transplants.10 This treatment has helped many suffering from blindness for years, including victims of Iraqi mustard gas attacks.

Patients with Crohn’s disease have apparently been cured after treatment with stem cells from their own blood.11

Ninety percent of 19 patients with various autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus, are in remission or have improved after treatment with their own blood stem cells.12

One patient with multiple sclerosis improved after being treated with adult stem cells from his own blood.13

One study of Parkinson’s patients showed an average improvement of sixty-one percent increase of coordination, as well as fewer symptoms after transplants of the patient’s own neuronal stem cells.14

Doctors added adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood to the treatment of leukemia patients. This freed fourteen of eighteen patients of the disease.15

Hematopietic stem cell transplants successfully treated over two hundred sickle cell patients. The success rate has been eighty to eighty-five percent.16

A 52-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis in 38 joints was treated with adult stem cells from her sister. While still in the hospital, her morning stiffness ceased. One year later she is free of the disease and off medication.17

Innsbruck, Austria, doctors have used adult stem cells from patients’ muscles to successfully treat urinary stress incontinence. Eighteen of twenty remain continent one year later.18

Researchers found that adult stem cells in the pulp of baby teeth may be extremely useful in growing replacement brain tissue to overcome stroke damage and other neurological disorders.19

Chagas disease is a potentially lethal parasitic condition attacking and destroying the heart and other tissue. It kills six million people worldwide every year. The parasite can be killed with treatment, but the damage remains. Now scientists in Buenos Aires, using adult stem cells from patients’ own bone marrow, have been repairing heart damage.20

Scientists in New York are exploring the real possibility of using adult stem cells to regenerate teeth that have been removed.21

Toronto researchers reported finding adult stem cells not merely in umbilical cord blood, but also a “jackpot” of adult stem cells in the tissue mass (Warton’s Jelly) surrounding the three umbilical cord blood vessels. They anticipate using these adult stem cells to regrow bone and connective tissue in knees that have been damaged in an accident.22

In Argentina, stem cells from a diabetic patient’s own bone marrow were fed into his pancreas through an artery. His glucose levels returned to normal with no need for medication.23

Pennsylvania and Louisiana scientists have coaxed adult stem cells from bone marrow to differentiate into the type of cells that line lungs and air passages. This may lead to effective treatments for cystic fibrosis.24

Adult stem cells hold a promise to treating baldness in humans. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine reports using them to grow hair on bald mice.25

Chicago researchers are looking at a new adult stem cell technique that will replace implants for reconstructive surgery and body augmentation. This could have profound commercial implications for cosmetic surgery.26

Many of the above studies are preliminary and several have been done in animal models, although many have been used in human trials. A single report of a success (e.g. of skull bone) is not considered official until other scientists replicate the same study. Then trials must succeed in human subjects using adult stem cells before such treatments will be available for you and your loved ones. This being said, however, we can hardly conceal our excitement at these new discoveries. Most of the above have been reported within the last year, with some much more recent. In stark contrast to this, we have no reports of such successes using embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic Stem Cells
Objections to the use of embryonic stem cells are both medical and moral. The moral dimension is evident. The only way to obtain these cells is to directly kill a five-day-old living human embryo, cutting him or her open and extracting embryonic stem cells. From an ethical, moral standpoint, this alone should rule out their use.

Medically speaking, there are several major problems. One is this tissue is from another living human, with a different DNA and can be rejected just like a transplanted kidney. Another is that they can carry infection from the donors; a worse case would be AIDS. Finally, and most importantly, researchers have not discovered a way to regulate or target their growth, for they are “very plastic.” They can uncontrollably grow into many types of cells. For instance, implanted embryonic stem cells have turned into bone, skin, kidney and other tissues when researchers had hoped they would turn into brain cells. This tendency for tumor formation has, as of yet, been uncontrolled.

Can these problems be solved? That is the challenge scientists hope to solve if and when they are given free reign to kill human embryos and use these cells in unrestricted and usually lethal experimentation. Their hope is the curative value of embryonic stem cells might even exceed all of the above adult stem cell successes. This, however, is just a hope. A number of highly scientific experts in this field have predicted such hopes are pipe dreams and that embryonic stem cells will never be able to be harnessed for curative reasons.

The above dim prospects are specifically the reason almost no private venture capital has been flowing into embryonic stem cell research, whereas, substantial amounts have been invested in the adult stem cell research.

Why then is there an almost exclusive push by liberal sources for embryonic stem cell research, and a near total blackout of the above adult stem cell successes? One reason is that killing five-day-old human embryos does not pose a problem for many scientists and certainly not for much of the media. If you can abort them before birth, you can snuff out their lives in a research lab. For scientists, the unknown is a challenge, a horizon that needs to be explored. They want to boldly go where no man has gone before. Whether or not palatable results seem reasonably obtainable is irrelevant. Exploring the unknown is a goal in itself. They are, however, faced with the obvious fact that private money will not subsidize such questionable investigations. This is why there is tremendous pressure from scientists, the liberal media and, very clearly, a powerful and well-financed biotech industry to appropriate tax money for such research.
Our goal is to make more people aware of the obvious promise of adult stem cells. Pro-lifers should be in the forefront, telling the world the exciting possibilities of ethical adult stem cell research. Further, this should be contrasted with the fact that embryonic stem cell research is done by killing living humans in the very limited hope of someday helping another.

1 Testimony of Susan Fajt at hearing of the US Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, July 14, 2004. Accessed at: http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=1268&wit_id=3674
2 Zwillich,Todd, "Paralysis Patients Tout Adult Stem Cells: Portuguese Surgery Soon to Seek FDA Approval in US," WebMD Medical News, June 24, 2004. Accessed at: http://my.webmd.com/content/Article/89/100250.htm
3 "Paralyzed Woman Walks Again After Stem Cell Therapy," Yahoo! News, Nov. 28, 2004. Accessed at: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/041128/1/3ovex.html
4 Howaldt, Hans-Peter et al., "Autologous Stem Cells and Fibrin Glue Used to Treat Widespread Traumatic Calvarial Defects: Case Report, Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery, Volume 32, Issue 6, Dec. 2004, p 370-373.
5 Day, Michael, Halle, Martyn and Houreld, Katharine "If Drink or Disease Destroy Your Liver, Just Grow a New One," Telegraph Group Limited, Nov. 14, 2004. Accessed at: http://telegraph.co.uk/core/Content/displayPrintable.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/11/14/nliver14.xml&site
6 Wade, Nicholas, "Doctors Use Bone Marrow Stem Cells to Repair a Heart," New York Times, March 7, 2003: A20.
7 Britten, MB et al., "Infarct Remodeling After Intracoronary Progenitor Cell Treatment in Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction," Circulation 108, 2003, p 2212-2218.
8 Perin, EC et al., "Transendocardial, Autologous Bone Marrow Cell Transplantation for Severe, Chronic Ischemic Heart Failure," Circulation 107, May 13, 2003, p 2294-2302.
9 Menasche, P et al., "Myoblast Transplantation for Heart Failure," Lancet 357, Jan. 2001, p 279-280.
10 Holland, Edward J et al., "Management of Aniridic Keratopathy With Keratolimbal Allograft: a Limbal Stem Cell Transplantation Technique," Ophthalmology, Volume 110, Issue 1, p 125-130.
11 Burt, RK et al., "High-Dose Immune Suppression and Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Refractory Crohn Disease," Blood 101, March 2003, p 2064-2066.
12 Rosen, O et al., "Autologous Stem-Cell Transplantation in Refractory Autoimmune Diseases After in Vivo Immunoablation and Ex Vivo Depletion of Mononuclear Cells," Arthritis Research 2, 2000, p 327-336.
13 Silber, Judy, "A Promising Weapon in the Fight Against MS," Sept. 7, 2000. Accessed at: www.mult-sclerosis.org/news/Sep2000/LATimesMSStemCellTransplants.html
14 Gill, SS et al., "Direct Brain Infusion of Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in Parkinson Disease," Nature Medicine 9, May 2003, p 589-595.
15 Ooi, J et al., "Unrelated Cord Blood Transplantation for Adult Patients With De Novo Acute Myeloid Leukemia," Blood 103, Jan. 15, 2004, p 489-491.
16 Vermylen, C, "Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation in Sickle Cell Disease," Blood 17, Sept. 2003, p 163-166.
17 Burt, Richard K, "Induction of Remission of Severe and Refractory Rheumatoid Arthritis by Allogeneic Mixed Chimerism," Arthritis & Rheumatism, Volume 50, Issue 8, p 2466-2470.
18 Klauser, Andrea et al., "Ultrasound-Guided Transurethral Injection of Adult Stem Cells for Treatment of Urinary Incontinence: First Clinical Results," Nov. 28, 2004. Accessed at: http://www2.rsna.org/pr/target.cfm?ID=208
19 Miura, Masako et al., "SHED: Stem Cells From Human Exfoliated Deciduous Teeth," Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, May 13, 2003, Volume 100, No. 10, p 5807-5812.
20 "Adult Stem Cells Repair Damage Caused by Deadly Parasites," Corethics, Feb. 17, 2005. Accessed at: http://www.corethics.org/document.asp?id=n170205.txt&se=4&4st=4
21 Duailibi, MT et al., "Bioengineered Teeth from Cultured Rat Tooth Bud Cells," Journal of Dental Research 83, p 523-528.
22 Sarugaser, Rahul et al., "Human Umbilical Cord Perivascular (HUCPV) Cells: A Source of Mesenchymal Progenitors," Stem Cells 23, Feb. 2005, p 220-229.
23 "Argentina: More on Fernandez Vina's Work on Diabetes," Stem Cell Research Medical and Health News, Feb. 8, 2005. Accessed at: http://www.stemnews.com/archives/000247.html
24 Spice, Byron, "Stem Cell Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis?," Health, Science & Environment, Dec. 21, 2004. Accessed at: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04356/430049.stm
25 Morris, Rebecca et al., "Capturing and Profiling Adult Hair Follicle Stem Cells," Nature Biotechnology, Volume 22, No. 4, April 2004, p 411-417.
26 Reinberg, Steven, "Stem Cells Promise Better Plastic Surgery," Forbes.com, Feb. 17, 2005. Accessed at: http://www.forbes.com/lifestyle/health/feeds/hscout/2005/02/17/hscout524030.html

Article from the Life Issues Connector, April 2005.

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