By Center for Bioethics Fellow Dr. Heather Kuruvilla.
A recent update reminds us that applications of adult stem cells to treat human diseases continue to progress. Cellerix is a biotechnology company that has adult stem cells in various stages of human testing. This means we may see new therapies on the market within a few years. Some of these treatments may help patients with Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cells come from adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells, are found in the adipose (fat) tissue of adults.
This news comes on the heels of a development just last month, where scientists announced they had successfully isolated colon stem cells from biopsy samples. The inability to culture certain human stem cell types from adult cell lines is one of the main arguments for using embryonic stem cells (which requires the destruction of frozen embryos). These newÂ developments weaken the argument that embryonic stem cell research is essential to cure certain diseases that plague humanity.
The clinical trials cited above are by no means rare. A Google search of adult stem cell therapy brings up many therapies already in clinical use. Search [adult stem cell clinical trial] and you will find even more therapies in various stages in development. Some of sources of adult stem cells in these therapies include cells derived from bone marrow, central nervous system, and fatty tissue of adults, as well as cells derived from umbilical cord blood or cells of placental origin, obtained after birth.
For those of us who morally object to embryonic stem cell research, the fact that new and successful clinical treatments use alternative sources of stem cells is a great encouragement. As more biotech companies develop such treatments, there will be less pressure to terminate the lives of human embryos for the sake of scientific progress.