South Korean Scientists Find Success With Adult Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 9, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — Scientist Hwang Woo-suk is drawing the world’s attention over his human cloning efforts to produce embryos to destroy for research, but the use of adult stem cells the Asian country are enjoying the most success.

Despite the hype over the embryonic stem cells, which Hwang admits are nowhere ready to treat patients, orthopedist Han Chang-whan at St. Mary’s Hospital in Daejeon is treating patients with adult stem cells and seeing tremendous results.

Chang-whan injected 74 patients with adult stem cells.

Five had cerebral infarction, 23 had Buerger’s disease (a disorder of the blood vessels at the hands or feet), 11 had femur head avascular necrosis (a disease resulting from the temporary or permanent loss of the blood supply to the bones in upper legs), and 35 suffered from nonunion of bone fractures.

In the study, 64 of the patients are showing significant improvement without any negative side effects.

Chang-whan told the Korea Herald that 21 out of 23 patients with Buerger’s disease saw vast improvements thanks to the adult stem cells.

For the patients with cerebral infarction, three of the five showed improvement, 7 out of 11 improved of those afflictaed with femur head avascular necrosis, and 33 of 35 patients with nonunion of bone fractures were successful cases.

Ji Kyung-tae, a patient with Buerger’s disease, told the Herald that he didn’t mind the couple of shots in the back of his calves.

"But in 6-7 months time, I could feel my leg becoming stronger and healthier again," he said. Ji hopes other patients will be able to experience the same "miracle."

Chang-whan said the adult stem cells are making "big strides forward, yielding more tangible results."

"While the embryonic stem cell studies are still at the early stage, far from clinical trials on the human body, the adult stem cells are now showcasing tangible results," said Neurologist Na Hyung-kyun who heads the neuroscience genome center.

The adult stem cells were taken from the patients’ own blood.