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More on Stem Cells

Posted Oct 02 2009 3:07pm
OK, it's ALOT more on stem cells...the topic is just too broad and ever-changing to just make a quick post! The research and advancements made in the area of stem cells is nearly impossible to keep up-to-date with!

September 23rd was Stem Cell Awareness day. I had every intention of posting some wonderful advancements in stem cells, and how they relate to hydranencephaly as well as other neurological disorders, on that day...but it just didn't happen for me. I have previously posted on my support of stem cell research, and I continue to be amazed at the new advances happening daily in the world of stem cells.

"Every family knows they are one phone call or one diagnosis away from needing what stem cell research can yield for us." ~Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives

That statement couldn't be more true, and I wish that everyone understood the power that stem cells possess, the power to cure millions of people with an array of debilitating conditions.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research published this video addressing Myths, Truths, and Possibilities of Stem Cells. Click HERE to view this is very informative and clearly defines what stem cells are while addressing a few misconceptions. Also at that website I found the following frequently asked questions...remember knowledge is power, as the saying goes! I edited/summarized the answers a bit to prevent it from being overly technical (i.e. long and boring to read), but feel free to visit the website and explore more information.

1. What are stem cells?
Stem cells are the foundation cells for every organ, tissue and cell in the body. They are like a blank microchip that can ultimately be programmed to perform particular tasks. Stem cells are "blank" cells that have not yet fully specialized. Under proper conditions, stem cells begin to develop into specialized tissues and organs. Additionally, stem cells are self-renewing, they can divide and give rise to more stem cells.

There are many different types of stem cells. These include embryonic stem cells that exist only at the earliest stages of embryonic development; as embryonic stem cells can form all cell types of the body, they are referred to as ‘ pluripotent ’ stem cells. There are various types of ‘adult’ or ‘tissue-specific’ stem cells that exist in a number of different fetal and adult tissues. These stem cells generally can only form a limited number of cell types corresponding with their tissues of origin; they are called ‘ multipotent ’ stem cells.

2. Where do stem cells come from?
Embryonic stem cells are derived from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst: the fertilized egg, called the zygote, divides and forms two cells; each of these cells divides again, and so on. Soon there is a hollow ball of about 150 cells called the blastocyst that contains two types of cells, the trophoblast and the inner cell mass. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from the inner cell mass.

Stem cells can also be found in small numbers in various tissues in the fetal and adult body. For example, blood stem cells are found in the bone marrow that give rise to all specialized blood cell types. Such tissue-specific stem cells have not yet been identified in all vital organs, and in some tissues like the brain, although stem cells exist, they are not very active, and thus do not readily respond to cell injury or damage.

Stem cells can also be obtained from other sources, for example, the umbilical cord of a newborn baby is a source of blood stem cells. Recently, scientists have also discovered the existence of cells in baby teeth and in amniotic fluid that may also have the potential to form multiple cell types. Research on these cells is at a very early stage.

Recently, cells with properties similar to embryonic stem cells, referred to as induced pluripotent stem cells ( iPS cells) have been engineered from somatic cells.

3. What is a stem cell line?
A stem cell line is a population of cells that can replicate themselves for long periods of time in vitro, meaning outside of the body. These cell lines are grown in incubators with specialized liquid food source, at a temperature and oxygen/carbon dioxide mixture resembling that found in the body.

4. What is an embryonic stem cell?
Embryonic stem cells are those grown from the cells that make up the inner cell mass of the previously defined blastocyst. Embryonic stem cells have been derived from a variety of animals, including human, and are described as ‘ pluripotent ’- that is, they are capable of generating any and all cells in the body under the right conditions.

Embryonic stem cell lines can be grown indefinitely in vitro if the correct conditions are met. Importantly, these cells continue to retain their ability to form different, specialized cell types once they are removed from the conditions that keep them in an undifferentiated, or unspecialized, state.

The most widely studied are mouse embryonic stem cells. Human embryonic stem cells were isolated relatively recently, in 1998. They are more difficult to work with than their mouse counterparts and currently less is known about them. However, scientists are making remarkable progress, learning about human developmental processes, modeling disease and establishing strategies that could ultimately lead to therapies to replace or restore damaged tissues using these human cells.

5. What is an adult (tissue-specific) stem cell?
Perhaps better referred to as a tissue-specific stem cell, these cells are found in tissues that have already developed. Tissue-specific stem cells can be isolated from many tissues, including brain.

While it has been theorized that some adult stem cells may have a broader potential to form different cell types than was previously suspected, this is highly controversial in the scientific community. Currently, it is not clear whether stem cells from adult tissues or umbilical cord blood are truly pluripotent. The comparison of human embryonic stem cells to adult stem cells is currently a very active area of research.

6. What are ‘induced pluripotent cells’ or iPS cells?
Induced pluripotent cells ( iPS cells) are non- pluripotent cells that were engineered (‘induced’) to become pluripotent, that is, able to form all cell types of the body. In other words, a cell with a specialized function (for example a skin cell) was ‘reprogrammed’ to an unspecialized state similar to that of an embryonic stem cell. While iPS cells and embryonic stem cells share many characteristics they are not identical.

Currently, iPS cells are produced by inserting copies of three-four genes into specialized cells known to be important in embryonic stem cells using viruses. Different groups have used slightly different combinations of genes. It is not completely understood how each of these genes functions to confer pluripotency and ongoing research is addressing this question.

The technology used to generate iPS cells holds great promise for creating patient- and disease-specific cell lines for research purposes. However, a great deal of work remains before these methods can be used to generate stem cells suitable for safe and effective therapies.

7. What are the potential uses of human stem cells?
Stem cell research contributes to a fundamental understanding of how organisms develop and grow, and how tissues are maintained throughout adult life. This is knowledge that is required to work out what goes wrong during disease and injury and ultimately how these conditions might be treated. The development of a range of human tissue-specific and embryonic stem cell lines will provide researchers with the tools to model disease, test drugs and develop increasingly effective therapies.

Cell therapy, is a promising use of stem cells in the treatment of disease; this is similar to organ transplantation only the treatment consists of transplanting cells instead of organs. Currently, researchers are investigating the use of adult, fetal and embryonic stem cells as a resource for various, specialized cell types, such as nerve cells, muscle cells, blood cells and skin cells that can be used to treat various diseases.

In theory, any condition in which there is tissue degeneration can be a potential candidate for stem cell therapies, including Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, Type 1 diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophies and liver diseases.

8. What are the obstacles that must be overcome before the potential uses of stem cells in cell therapy will be realized?

Here are just a few of the challenges that lie ahead. Firstly, a source of stem cells must be found. The process of identifying, isolating and growing the right kind of stem cell, for example a rare cell in the adult tissue, is painstaking. In general, embryonic and fetal stem cells are believed to be more versatile than tissue-specific stem cells. Secondly, once stem cells are identified and isolated, the right conditions must be developed so that the cells differentiate into the specialized cells required for a particular therapy. This too will require a great deal of experimentation. Thirdly, a system that delivers the cells to the right part of the body must be developed and the cells once there must be encouraged to integrate and function in concert with the body's natural cells. Furthermore, just as in organ transplants, the body's immune system must be suppressed to minimize the immune reaction set off by the transplanted cells.

While results from animal models are promising, the research on stem cells and their applications to treat various human diseases is still at a preliminary stage. As with any medical treatment, a rigorous research and testing process must be followed to ensure long-term efficacy and safety.

9. Are stem cells currently used in therapies today?
Hematopoietic stem cells ( HSCs ) or blood stem cells, present in the bone marrow are the precursors to all blood cells. Blood stem cells are currently the only type of stem cells commonly used for therapy. Doctors have been transferring blood stem cells by bone marrow transplant for more than 40 years. Advanced techniques for collecting or "harvesting" HSCs are now used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several inherited blood disorders. Cord blood, like bone marrow, is stored as a source of HSCs and is being used experimentally as an alternative to bone marrow in transplantation.

New clinical applications for stem cells are currently being tested therapeutically for the treatment of musculoskeletal abnormalities, cardiac disease, liver disease, autoimmune and metabolic disorders ( amyloidosis ), chronic inflammatory diseases (lupus) and other advanced cancers. However, these new therapies have been offered only to a very limited number of patients.

10. Why is cord blood a valuable resource?
Cord blood is rich in hematopoietic or blood stem cells and is currently being used as an experimental alternative to bone marrow transplantation. The collection process is completely non-invasive, the host-donor match required for transplantation is less stringent and cord blood has fewer mature immune cells and thus poses a lower risk of graft vs. host disease.

11. Why are researchers interested in developing disease-specific or patient-specific pluripotent stem cells?

The development of patient-specific or disease-specific pluripotent stem cells has great therapeutic promise for three reasons. Firstly, these cells could provide a powerful new tool for studying the basis of human disease and for discovering new drugs. Secondly, the resulting embryonic stem cells could be developed into a needed cell type, and if transplanted into the original donor, would be recognized as 'self', thereby avoiding the problems of rejection and immunosuppression that occur with transplants from unrelated donors.

12. What is somatic cell nuclear transfer ( SCNT )?
Somatic cell nuclear transfer ( SCNT ) is a technique in which the nucleus of a somatic cell, that is any cell of the body apart from the sperm or egg, is transferred into an egg that has had its original nucleus removed. The egg now has the same DNA, or genetic material, as the donor somatic cell. Given the right signals, the egg can be coaxed into developing as if it had been fertilized. The egg would divide to form 2 cells, then 4 cells, then 8 cells and so on until the blastocyst is formed. Embryonic stem cells can be derived from this blastocyst to create cell lines that are genetically identical to the donor somatic cell.

13. Why derive embryonic stem cell lines following somatic cell nuclear transfer ( SCNT )?
Firstly, these cells could provide a powerful new tool for studying the basis of human disease and for discovering new drugs. Secondly, the resulting embryonic stem cells could be developed into a needed cell type, and if transplanted into the original donor, would be recognized as 'self', thereby avoiding the problems of rejection and immunosuppression that occur with transplants from unrelated donors.

14. Can induced pluripotent cells replace research on embryonic stem cells or somatic cell nuclear transfer?
No. The derivation of human induced pluripotent stem cells opens up exciting new areas of stem cell research, however, this technology is at a very early stage and many fundamental questions remain. While iPS cells and embryonic stem cells share many characteristics they are not identical. The similarities and differences are still being explored.

Research on human embryonic stem cells, somatic cell nuclear transfer and ‘adult’ or tissue-specific stem cells needs to continue in parallel. All are part of a research effort that seeks to expand our knowledge of how cells function, what fails in the disease process, and how the first stages of human development occur. It is this combined knowledge that will ultimately generate safe and effective therapies.

15. What is reproductive cloning?
If an egg generated by somatic cell nuclear transfer (see ‘What is somatic cell nuclear transfer?’) was implanted into the womb of an animal, an individual would be born that has identical genetic material as the donor somatic cell and might be referred to as a ‘clone’. The procedure is referred to as ‘reproductive cloning’ and is fraught with profound technical and biological problems. The overwhelming consensus of the world’s scientific and medical communities is that at this time human reproductive cloning should be banned.

16. What is regenerative medicine?
The goal of regenerative medicine is to repair organs or tissues that are damaged by disease, aging or trauma, such that function is restored, or at least improved.

The term regenerative medicine is often used nowadays to describe medical treatments and research that use stem cells (either adult or embryonic) to restore the function of organs or tissues. This can be achieved in different ways; first, by administering stem cells, or specific cells that are derived from stem cells in the laboratory; or second, by administering drugs that coax stem cells that are already present in tissues to more efficiently repair the involved tissue.

17. What is bioethics?
Bioethics is the study of the moral and ethical issues in the fields of scientific research, medical treatment and, more generally, in the life sciences. With advancing technology come new and exciting insights into scientific processes and diseases; at the same time, new ethical issues arise.

Much of the controversy associated with stem cell research, is in regards to the usage of embryonic stem cells. A falsity is that these cells are derived from unborn babies that are being aborted specifically for this research. Not only have advancements made it possible to create embryonic stem cells in laboratories, and aside from that, despite the allegations babies have not been "murdered" to create the possibility of this legal research. Here is another article from the ISSCR website in regards to one person's view on these ethics:

The Ethics of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

By Louis Guenin

As a public service, the ISSCR provides this page to assist readers who wish to inquire into the moral debate concerning embryonic stem cell research.

Introduction: Thinking About Ethics

Ethics is not a specialized body of knowledge. Ethics is a conversation about questions. In that conversation, everyone has a place. We all have moral intuitions. Concerning embryonic stem cell research, the question that we face takes a familiar form: does the end justify the means? In some moral situations, one or more of us might answer that question in the affirmative. For example, someone might conclude that the end of teaching lifelong lessons to a child justifies imposing discipline as a means. In other situations, it may seem that the end does not justify the means. Most of us would not approve of robbing a bank as a means to the end of helping the poor.

Moral Treatment of Embryos
In the case of embryonic stem cell research, the end that scientists hope to achieve is the relief of human suffering. That this is a humanitarian and worthy end is not in dispute. The controversy is about the means, namely, the consumption of donated embryos. More particularly, embryonic stem cell research and therapy would use donated embryos that, by virtue of donor instructions, will never enter a uterus. Is it permissible to use those means to that end? Ancient religious texts provide little guidance. The ancients did not understand embryology, did not imagine that scientists might create and nurture what we now understand as embryos in the laboratory. Nor can we get an answer from laboratory experiments. There is no test for whether an embryo is a person. Instead we are left to our own devices, to our own moral reasoning.

Humanitarian Hopes
Powerful motivation for setting our minds to this task comes from the vision of scientists about what regenerative medicine might accomplish with stem cells derived from embryos. Shortly after the discovery in 1998 of ways to nurture embryonic stem cells in the laboratory, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Harold Varmus, M. D., described the promise of this frontier intestimony before Congress. The embryonic stem cells of which Dr. Varmus spoke differ from the stem cells of developed humans (the latter often called "adult" stem cells). Embryonic stem cells possess the attribute ofpluripotency, which is to say that they are capable of issuing in any cell type except the placenta. Cells in the developed human in some cases possess the attribute ofmultipotency, which is to say that they may issue in more than one cell type. Cells in the developed human, so far as is known, are not pluripotent. More information about the scientific promise of pluripotent embryonic stem cells may be learned fromresources on human embryonic stem cellscollected by the University of Wisconsin.

Moral Debate Concerning Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Our task is to decide how we should act toward an embryo, and whether we should recognize, as we do among adults, distinctions between embryos of various types and in various circumstances. We immediately encounter the question of what beings we should classify as "persons" for purposes of the duty not to kill persons. Answering that question with the view that not every embryo should be classified as a person for purposes of that duty, the Protestant theologian Ronald Cole-Turner, M. Div., Ph.D., has offered aChristian moral defense of humanitarian embryo use.

In contrast, Edmund D. Pellegrino, M.D., of Georgetown University states aCatholic case against embryo use. As is well known, the official teaching of the Holy See of the Roman Catholic is unequivocal in its opposition to the use of embryos as means. For one who holds that we should treat every embryo as a person for purposes of the duty not to kill, embryo-destructive experiments could gain justification only if it were argued that it is sometimes permissible to kill some persons in order to help other persons, and that is an uphill argument within any moral view. But the official teaching of the Holy See is not the only interpretation of Catholic tradition. Margaret Farley, Ph.D., of Yale University explains that in history and in present theological discussion, there is more than one Catholic line of reasoning, including a strongCatholic moral defense of humanitarian embryo use. For one who concludes that we are not obliged to refrain from using embryos that will never enter a womb, embryonic stem cell research is a case of fostering a worthy end by using only nonpersons as means.

There are many sides to the ethical battle surrounding stem cells, however the truth is they are powerful healers...and without the research needed to understand these healers in a more profound way, we cannot properly utilize them in any sort of ethical way to promote great healing.

Since hydranencephaly shares many of it's symptoms with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, here is an example of what stem cells are doing for the CP community:

XCell-Center Presents Positive Results from Cerebral Palsy Stem Cell Treatment

The XCell-Center has released results from a follow-up study of 45 cerebral palsy patients treated with autologous bone marrow stem cells. Overall, 67% improved following treatment.

Dusseldorf, Germany (PRWEB) September 24, 2009 -- The XCell-Center, Europe's leading stem cell therapy provider has released results from a follow-up study of 45 cerebral palsy patients treated with autologous bone marrow stem cells. Overall, 67% improved following treatment.

These results support the premise that patients with cerebral palsy can be treated safely and effectively with autologous stem cell therapy.

The most common improvement reported by patients was improved hand and finger coordination that resulted in better hand use. A majority of patients reported less upper limb spasticity.

"Not long after the treatment, our son started speaking in full sentences. His fine motor skills have improved and he can now hold his fork and eat without help," said Mrs. Ritu Giacobbe, the mother of a 13 year-old boy who was treated at the XCell-Center one year ago.

Leg and foot coordination improved in nearly half of the patients. Approximately 4 in 10 had reduced lower limb spasticity. 20% were able to walk better.

Speech improved in about 40% of patients. 1 in 5 showed improved cognition.

In a story published in this week's Denver Post, "Looking Up Now", the mothers of two boys recently treated at the XCell-Center, Dominic and Harrison, expressed their delight at the progress their sons have made since returning home. "For Dominic, the most significant improvement has been his ability to focus his eyes," his mom said. The Post article also quotes Harrison's mom, "Some of the milestones are significant -- Harrison can roll himself over now. He holds his head up without his chin sinking into his chest. His speech is clearer."

"These results confirm what we see in Germany on a weekly basis; that treating patients with their own stem cell yields positive results. Many of these children require less care and are now more independent. And this positively impacts the quality of life of the children and their caregivers. We couldn't be more delighted," stated Dr. Ute Tamaschke, the XCell-Center's pediatric neurosurgeon.

The treatment begins by collecting a small amount bone marrow from the patient's hip via thin needle mini-puncture. The stem cells are separated from the bone marrow at the XCell-Center's EU certified cGMP laboratory, where they are counted and their vitality is confirmed. The last step consists of inserting a fine spinal needle between the patient's L4 and L5 vertebrae and injecting the stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid which flows into the brain.

Regardless of your ethical stance on stem cells, please take the time to educate yourselves in the possibilities that exist because of this wonderful research. One day it could be the miracle cure that you, yourself will need! If not yourself, someone you my case, my son. Here is an article in regards to the wonders stem cells can create for him, or other stroke victims (and note that these stem cells are coming from liposuction leftovers??!!) INTERESTING! I don't know the author, found the website here:

Multipotent Stem Cells

The human fat removed during liposuction procedures contains versatile cells that can be easily coaxed to become stem cells, according to a new study from Stanford’s School of Medicine. The ‘liposuction leftovers’ can be more easily converted to induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, than the skin cells most often used by researchers, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Researchers hope that reprogramming adult cells to function like embryonic stem cells is one way to create patient-specific cell lines to regenerate tissue or study specific diseases.The good news? There’s a lot of liposuction leftovers to go around in the U.S.

Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently. Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away.That the cells can be converted without the need for mouse-derived “feeder cells” may make them ideal starting material for human therapy. Feeder cells are often used when growing human skin cells outside the body, but some scientists worry that cross-species contamination may make them unsuitable for human use.Within a person’s latticework of fat cells and collagen are multipotent cells called adipose stem cells. Unlike highly specialized skin-cell fibroblasts, these cells in the fat are versatile, and can become fat, bone or muscle as needed. That inherent flexibility gives fat cells an edge over skin cells when it comes to stem cells, the researchers believe.

These cells are not as far along on the differentiation pathway, so they’re easier to back up to an earlier state. They are more embryonic-like than fibroblasts, which take more effort to reprogram.In practical terms, that may mean a suffering patient could have more biologically-tailored treatment.

Imagine if we could isolate fat cells from a patient with some type of congenital cardiac disease. We could then differentiate them into cardiac cells, study how they respond to different drugs or stimuli and see how they compare to normal cells.The disease burden of stroke is enormous in society, with stroke recovery forming a significant part of medical expenses for taxpayers, and the condition having an extreme impact on many people's quality of life.

The treatments for stroke have progressed over the years, from simple treatments with drugs, to more complicated surgery techniques, including cranial surgery, and keyhole surgery to assist stroke recovery.

Now one of the most important advances in treatment has come about - stem cell therapy for strokes, which may allow the reformation of damaged brain tissue, which was previously unrecoverable.

Stroke recovery is an impotant medical issue, affecting millions of people worldwide. Ischemic stroke is one of the more common types of this condition, and occurs when a thrombus, or blood clot, stops blood supply to an area of the brain.

This blood clot may have formed due to cardiovascular disease, including in response to a heart attack. Thrombolysis used to be the first line of treatment after stroke for stroke recovery, which involves breaking the clot. Removing it mechanically, or performing a thrombectomy, was also a popular option.

Drugs such as aspirin are often used in stroke recovery - however they do not actually restore the function of brain cells like stem cell therapy for stroke, or indeed do anything much to the existing clot or blockage. However, they do help to minimize clot enlargement and prevent new clots from forming, which is a real danger after stroke for patients.

Control of blood sugars is also important in stroke recovery and management, as well as oxygenation to ensure that parts of the brain with limited blood supply have sufficient oxygen. Blood pressure is usually elevated immediately after stroke, however in this instance it is needed to allow good blood flow to the brain.

However, the most exciting advances in stem cell therapy and stroke recovery come in the form of multipotent adult stem cells, that would help limit ischemic injury, as well as restore blood flow to the brain and neural circuits by differentiating themselves. These cells can differentiate into vascular and neural cells, and in vivo, they can help reconstitute damaged tissues.

There has been much stem cell research on their use in stroke recovery. Studies often look first at the key molecular events that define differentiation, and then evaluate the pre-clinical efficacy of adult stem cells or cells that have been created from these human adult stem cells, in stroke patients.

Studies are currently concentrating on producing somatic cell lines that will help in stroke recovery. These types of cells have already partially differentiated themselves, and in stem cell therapy for stroke they are preferable to the more debated embryonic stem cells as embryonic ones have been linked to tumor formation.

Most researchers believe that somatic cells are the safest sort to use. Patented technologies have been developed by some stem cell research companies, to generate the lines.

However, it is important that the clonal stem lines are stable - otherwise unforeseen problems may occur, that would be worse than the stroke damage itself.September 29, 2009 •

I don't care WHO you are, this is just AMAZING!!

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