Scientists Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients Without Embryonic Stem Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 14, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists Help Multiple Sclerosis Patients Without Embryonic Stem Cells

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 14,

Montreal, Canada ( — Scientists in Canada have developed a vaccine that, in early testing, appears to help patients with multiple sclerosis without relying on controversial embryonic stem cells. Pro-life advocates oppose the use of the cells because days-old unborn children must be destroyed to get them.

Dr. Amit Bar-Or and researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute developed a vaccine that relies on the insertion of healthy DNA into a patient with the debilitating disease.

Bar-Or tested the BHT-3009 on 30 patients where half received the injection and half received a placebo. The London Telegraph reports that the numbers of white blood cells that deplete myelin in MS patients reduced in those given the vaccine.

According to his report in the journal Archives of Neurology, "BHT-3009 was safe and well tolerated, provided favorable trends on brain MRI and produced beneficial immune changes."

The newspaper said the research team is now starting a larger study involving 290 patients.

Wesley J. Smith, a noted author and attorney who is one of the leading bioethics watchdogs, said the slowing of the progress of the MS disease occurred without the use of embryonic stem cells.

"We’ve heard the mantra repeatedly: embryonic stem cells are the only hope (or the best hope) for curing this disease and that disease. But the evidence continues to grow that this just isn’t true," he said in response to the study.

"Adult stem cells have stopped the progression of the disabling disease in Stage 2 human trials. Now, a different approach in early human trials is also showing promise," he added.

"There is so much going on in biotechnology that has nothing to do with cloning and ESCR," Smith concluded. "It’s time to stop the hype and acknowledge that embryonic stem cell research is merely one of many potential biotechnological approaches for treating diseases–most of the others being utterly non morally contentious."