Stem Cells Explained-Dr. Michael West Founder of Geron Corporation Stresses The Need For Continued and Accelerated Funding
Posted Mar 04 2011 4:51pm
I sat in on a webinar this week and as a healthcare blogger I was the lowest denominator attending but wanted to listen in and find out about what others, scientists, doctors and the Geron CEO had to say. I do quite a few posts on the Quack here and thought this might be of interest since I have written a couple times about the Geron clinical trials at UCI relative to stem cell treatments for spinal cord damage. You can read more at the links below on the trials. The FDA cleared the trials back in 2009 for the use of embryonic stem cells to begin, then temporarily they stopped and now are back on.
During the procedure, the neurosurgeon will apply about 2 million of the special cells (called GRNOPC1) directly into the injured area of the enrolled patient’s spinal cord.
First discussed were the past ethical debates with the NIH funding but he stated ut was a good thing that private investigation continued. Dr. West elaborated a bit on this point and how the delay on funding from the NIH was a disappointment and became a political issue that added to the delay of research all across the US. In addition, Geron has other stem cell programs as you can see from the screenshot below.
In addition,Geron has granted exclusive and worldwide rights to the nutraceutical and cosmeceutical applications of TA-65 and I can perhaps explain more in a later post about their commercial product. A pretty detailed explanation as to what is a stem cell was introduced and how they function.
Later the difference between IPS stem cells and embryonic cells was defined. I have covered this before but the big difference is that IPS cells can change characteristics, in other words skin stem cells can be reprogrammed to function as heart stem cells.
Also discussed was the stem cell trial at Cedar Sinai whereby stem cells are being injected directly into hearts and patients are becoming asymptomatic, in other words we can say cured but pretty close. The link below has more information and a video of a man who had undergone the treatment.
What I found very interesting as well with all the conversations we have and information we read about today relative to the cost of healthcare, stem cell treatments stand at the forefront as being a contributor to saving money. As with any new technology it is expensive at first and then the prices lower. When you stop and think about it, possibly not having to undergo a surgical invasive procedure, and with a stem cell treatment being given instead with a healing process this can save items such as hospital re-admissions, additional follow up visits and surgeries, etc. The CEO of Geron was pretty specific about this and is making this case as one are to where the cost of healthcare should not be overlooked and thus the development of this technology is important.
Of course as a patient, one’s health is a benefactor too and let’s face it if you had the choice between a device or having a stem cell procedure with the potential of better or same results, which would you choose? In addition, the question was raised about cancer cells reproducing? Thus far this had not occurred, which is good news as that is a big question for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and also in the news this week the same results were mentioned for breast cancer stem cell treatments from Cytori where the breast regrow. So far there has been no return of any cancer cells. Another company is also producing cosmetics with stem cell technology.
Below is a video presentation on what we age from Dr. Edward Park, M.D. in Orange County, California, who is treating patients with the commercial product TA-65. In 2001, Geron Corporation, discovered the molecule, TA-65 ® which activates the fountain-of-youth enzyme called telomerase.
The commercial product is not sold as a cure or antidote and has been covered by the major media on several occasions. At any rate it is interesting to see both the clinical trial side and the commercial products here from the same company. In closing I found all of this extremely fascinating and again the potential of stem cell technologies having an impact on the cost of healthcare and the needs to fund continued research seems to almost be imperative if we want to help cut down what is spent on healthcare and how it is contained. As a side note, a patent is being applied for to grow teeth too.
At the TED Long Beach convention this week the folks from Wake Forest printed out a kidney, that is the scaffold to grow a kidney and one person who received one of these kidneys several years ago is alive and doing well, so again the need for stem research is here and with growing organs, we do not have to face rejection from our bodies either. You can read more about what’s happening at Wake Forest here and for additional posts just do a search, there’s a lot at the Medical Quack about what they do. BD