Adult Stem Cell Research Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis, Tackles Hair Loss

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis, Tackles Hair Loss Email this article
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by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
September 7, 2004

Chiacgo, IL ( — Two medical journals are reporting advances in stem cell research using adult stem cells, including a case where rheumatoid arthritis was apparently cured.

In the August 2004 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism, the case of a 52-year old woman who had rheumatoid arthritis in 28 joints was treated with stem cells from a sibling.

While drugs were used to help her body accept the new cells, she no longer needed medication for her disease within a year of the transplantation. In fact, her morning stiffness stopped occurring while she was still in the hospital and never returned.

Researchers at the Northwestern University of Chicago concluded that the procedure "may be performed safely, without the development of graft versus host disease or serious infection, and results in … marked resolution of the disease manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis."

The journal Cell has published results of a study that found that cell in hair follicles in the skin have properties similar to stem cells — namely the ability to create new cells of different types of tissue.

Researchers at Rockefeller University have found that certain cells in the skin of mice have the ability to improve wound healing and reverse hair loss — showing potential to become treatments for burns and hair loss.

"We’ve identified cells within skin that bear all the characteristics of true stem cells" said Elaine Fuchs, biologist at the University. "The results demonstrate for the first time that individual cells isolated from hair follicles can be cultured in the laboratory and retain a capacity to make multiple cell types when grafted."

Stem cells have been the center of controversy lately, as pro-life organizations have voiced opposition to the use of embryonic stem cells, which are harvested by destroying human embryos. Medical advances, however, has only been found through the use of adult stem cells, found in umbilical cord blood, and perhaps even in skin cells. The adult stem cells can be collected without taking human lives.

The ethical issues surrounding embryonic stem cell research are compounded by the wishes of some researchers to clone human embryos in order to produce the stem cells.

President Bush put forward an executive order preventing taxpayer funding of any new embryonic stem cell research. Despite presidential candidate John Kerry saying the policy amounts to a ban on funding, the Bush administration has backed adult stem cell research with $190 million of federal funds.

Currently, New Jersey has the most extreme pro-cloning legislation in effect in the U.S., allowing for the cloning, implantation, and destruction of human life from the embryonic through the newborn stages of prenatal development, funded by state taxes.