While Embryonic Stem Cell Research Flounders Adult Stem Cells Advance

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 23, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

While Embryonic Stem Cell Research Flounders Adult Stem Cells Advance Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
April 23, 2006

Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — While embryonic stem cell research flounders after an international scandal revealed years of supposed progress were fabricated by South Korean researchers, the use of adult stem cells continues to advance. The less controversial cells have already produced dozens of treatments for diseases and various conditions.

In the latest experiments involving adult stem cells, cardiologists at Rush Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in Illinois and 15 other centers across the country are hoping that transplanted stem cells can regenerate damaged heart muscle in those who experience a first heart attack.

The study involves an intravenous infusion of adult mesenchymal stem cells from healthy donor bone marrow that might possibly reverse damage to heart tissue.

Researchers say this study may make it easier for patients to get stem cell treatments by not requiring the stem cell transplants be inserted to the site of the disease through catheterization or open surgical procedures.

"A person who has had a single, severe heart attack may survive but can be left with substantial damage to the heart muscle as a result of the blood supply to the heart muscle being cut off during the heart attack," Rush principal investigator cardiologist Dr. Gary Schaer explained.

"The damaged muscle inhibits the heart’s overall ability to pump blood, leading to heart failure," he said.

He explained that mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are found in the adult bone marrow and have the potential to develop into mature heart cells and new blood vessels. The MSC cells are derived from normal, healthy adult volunteer bone marrow donors and are not derived from killing a human embryo.

Schaer said the adult stem cells should not trigger any rejection issues from the patient’s immune system in the way embryonic stem cells have been rejected in animal studies.

As a result, the MSCs should eliminate the need for donor matching and recipient immune suppression.

"The cells have the ability to expand, or multiply, under controlled conditions, and the expanded cells have the ability to develop into different types of cells in the appropriate environment," he explained. "One donation can produce billions of MSCs. The cells can be stored for years in a frozen state, ready to be used when they are needed."

Research has demonstrated that mesenchymal stem cells follow inflammatory signals or "home" to sites of injury in the body. Schaer says the stem cells know to go to the heart muscle in a patient who has had a recent heart attack.

Congestive heart failure is a common outcome for heart attack patients and the number one cause of disability in the United States.