Adult Stem Cell Research May Benefit Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer Victims

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research May Benefit Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer Victims

Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Maria Vitale Gallagher Staff Writer
December 8, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Some exciting new developments in adult stem cell research are being reported at leading medical conferences.

The developments raise new questions about the wisdom of rival embryonic stem cell research, which has had negligible impact on the world of scientific research and is ethically problematic. Embryonic stem cell research involves the killing of human embryos while adult stem cell research does not.

The latest adult stem cell research promises hope for patients suffering from everything from multiple sclerosis to strokes to cancer.

For instance, researchers in Italy say adult stem cells might be able to reverse damage caused by multiple sclerosis. While human applications might not be possible for some time, initial trials using mice have been encouraging.

Some 400,000 Americans afflicted by MS might benefit from the therapy.

The stem cells were derived from adult nerve tissue. The half-dozen mice injected with neural stem cells had "almost complete recovery" from the disease in the Italian experiment. However, the researchers cautioned, "We have great hopes, but we do not yet know the possible side effects."

Another breakthrough may come through stem cells derived from baby teeth.

Hematologist Dr. Stan Gronthos told the New Zealand Herald, "Parents will want to store the stem cells found in the pulp inside these juvenile teeth in liquid nitrogen. That way, they could be used to grow new teeth and perhaps even cure neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease."

Gronthos forecasts that baby teeth stem cells will be effective in growing replacement brain tissue to overcome stroke damage as well. Gronthos presented his research findings at an Australian Stem Cell Scientific Conference in October.

According to the Herald, a number of delegates to the Sydney conference believe the adult stem cells from the baby teeth will be more versatile than embryonic material.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, researchers see great promise in umbilical cord blood. They say stem cells taken from such blood could cure patients with cancers of the blood and bone marrow.

"The results of our studies are a triumph in a treatment that has been largely viewed as only possible in children and adolescents," Dr. John Wagner, a University of Minnesota professor, told the news media.

Juliet Barker, an assistant professor of medicine, added, "These remarkable results represent a significant advance in the practice of adult cord blood transplantation. These approaches allow us to offer potentially life-saving transplant therapy to many patients who have previously been denied such treatment."