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September 28, 2005

Big Promise from Adult Stem Cells

Remember the ad showing a walking Christopher Reeve? Remember John Edwards saying that someday folks in wheelchairs would be able to get up and walk? Both were extolling the virtues of embryonic stem cell research. Turns out that adult stem cell research, which doesn't require the destruction of embryos and has none of the ethical issues, is on its way to fulfilling that promise.

In an apparent major breakthrough, scientists in Korea report using umbilical cord blood stem cells to restore feeling and mobility to a spinal-cord injury patient.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Cythotherapy, centered on a woman who had been a paraplegic 19 years due to an accident.

After an infusion of umbilical cord blood stem cells, stunning results were recorded:

"The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation her feet responded to stimulation."

Umbilical cord cells are considered "adult stem cells," in contrast to embryonic stem cells, which have raised ethical concerns because a human embryo must be destroyed in order to harvest them.

The report said motor activity was noticed on day 7, and the woman was able to maintain an upright position on day 13. Fifteen days after surgery, she began to elevate both lower legs about one centimeter.

The study's abstract says not only did the patient regain feeling, but 41 days after stem cell transplantation, testing "also showed regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured cite" and below it.

The scientists conclude the transplantation "could be a good treatment method" for paraplegic patients.

The article notes that this is still very preliminary ("one patient does not a treatment make" cautions a bioethicist), but this is very exciting.

Well, to me it is, at least. A search for just the journal name on Google New today returns only this article and the article it refers to. If this had been done with embryonic stem cells, the media would be all over this, with quotes from John Edwards and Ron Reagan for starters (the latter of which just needs to open his mouth on the subject to get major coverage). Let's hope they come around, but hold not thy breath.

Posted by Doug at September 28, 2005 12:56 PM

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Big Promise from Adult Stem Cells:

» Another Stem Cell Breakthrough from The Larsonian
I join Doug in calling out Non Reagan and John "Silky Pony" Edwards to futher publicize this exciting development. [Read More]

Tracked on September 28, 2005 03:55 PM

» Stem Cell Breakthrough gets little coverage from The Anchoress
Doug at Stones Cry Out links to a terrifically exciting article on how much progress is being made on spinal injuries by using ADULT stem cells. Writes Doug: Remember the ad showing a walking Christopher Reeve? Remember John Edwards saying that somed... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 11:47 AM

» Stem cells restore feeling in paraplegic from Mister Snitch!
Quoting the interim president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine: "What are the low-hanging fruits [of stem cell research]? The general consensus is that there are three: Parkinson's, spinal-cord injury, and type 1 diabetes. There ... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 12:03 PM


If this had been done with embryonic stem cells, the media would be all over this

That's true, Doug, but only fair. After all, embroyonic stem cells are controversial and adult stem cells are not.

The truth is that any medical advance is exciting, but as the article and your posts notes, preliminary. Those, like me, who support embroyonic stem cell research support adult stem cell research.

And if adult stem cells can do it all, great! Terrific! Who needs the controversy? But one can't know that one is better or as good until all is looked at. That's the scientific method, and research depends on it.

Doesn't answer what to do with fertility clinics' discards, though.

Posted by: DemFromCT at September 28, 2005 07:35 PM

But this is "The Big Promise". This was the Holy Grail that embryonic stem cell proponents harped on. And it's far closer than I'll be almost everyone thought it would be at this point. Regardless of what kind of stem cells were used, this should be huge news.

Instead, a collective yawn from the media. More blogs are picking this up, including Slashdot, but nary a word anywhere else. I'll be waiting to see how long the MSM takes to catch up on this and whether that time was spent gathering further information, or whether they just sat on it.

Is the "scientific method" really devoid of any ethical considerations at all? Does it really mean to hand-wave away all moral questions under the catch-phrase "Oh well, it's the ol' scientific method that matters"?

And I'm still not into encouraging more and more "fertility discards" (my, what a euphamism) by giving folks the out, "Well, but it'll be used for a good cause."

Posted by: Doug Payton at September 28, 2005 08:26 PM

I dropped Non Reagan a line over at the MSNBC blog that he shares with cohost Monica Crowley. I didn't get a response, but I didn't really expect one.

It isn't that MesSNBC has a ton of viewers, but it would still be good to get the story out to them.

Keep on pushing,

Posted by: eLarson at September 29, 2005 08:20 AM