Adult Stem Cell Research Helps Dogs With Muscular Dystrophy, People Next

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 15, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Adult Stem Cell Research Helps Dogs With Muscular Dystrophy, People Next Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 15
, 2006

Milan, Italy ( — Adult stem cell research continues to show great promise and researchers in Italy have shown that adult stem cells can ease the symptoms associated with muscular dystrophy. The results, seen in dogs, show great promise for treating people down the road and avoid the ethical concerns of embryonic cells.

The scientists published the results of their research online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Giulio Cossu, director of the Stem Cell Research Institute at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute of Milan in Italy, lead the team. They found that dogs with the condition were able to walk faster and even jump after the stem cell treatments.

The dogs had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle disorder that affects about 1 in every 3,500 boys. It is the most severe, yet the most common form of the disease.

"We do not know whether this will work in patients," Cossu said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. However, he said he hopes to begin treatments on children next year or in 2008.

One five month old dog named Azor was limping because of the disease but after the treatments was able to romp around with other puppies.
"Azor regained incredible mobility, much more than when the treatment started," said Prof Cossu.

"He could not extend his hind limbs at first and was jumping like a rabbit. But it was amazing to see how he could then move, without any fatigue. In dogs, this is the best result so far."

The research wrote that they found the best results when obtaining adult stem cells from other dogs but they said a patient’s own stem cells may be able to work just as well and help them avoid having to deal with potential rejection issues.

Johnny Huard of the University of Pittsburgh, who didn’t participate in the research, told AP the results are "a great breakthrough for all of us working on stem cells for muscular dystrophy."

Sharon Hesterlee, vice president of translational research at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which helped pay for the research, told AP the study is one of the most exciting her group has seen in years and she is optimistic it will eventually lead to treatments for people.

The researchers used Golden retrievers for their experiments because they are the most accurate animal model of the human disease.

Cossu’s team transplanted cells called mesoangioblasts, stem cells gathered small blood vessels in muscle, that are programmed to develop into muscle cells.

Muscular dystrophy comes in at least 20 forms and causes muscle wasting, progressive paralysis and eventually death.