Babies Can Be Treated With Adult Stem Cells, Even in the Womb

Bioethics   |   David Prentice   |   Feb 1, 2011   |   2:43PM   |   Washington, DC

Two recent stories are exciting about the possibility of treating young children, even in the womb, with adult stem cells.  One study shows that cardiac adult stem cells can be isolated from young children with heart problems, even as young as one day old. 

ultrasound3d12The researchers found that a very small sample of heart tissue contained ample adult stem cells that could be grown in culture, turned into various types of heart cells, and repair damaged hearts in a lab animal model.  Dr. Sunjay Kaushal, senior author on the study in the journal Circulation, said “The potential of cardiac stem cell therapy for children is truly exciting.”

Another recent report shows the potential of extending adult stem cell treatments into the womb.  Previous attempts at treating unborn children have been largely unsuccessful, but scientists at the University of California-San Francisco have discovered the key to such treatments–use the mother’s adult stem cells to treat the unborn child.

Using a mouse model, they found that mom’s immune system caused the rejection even of stem cells matched to the unborn baby, but using cells matched to the mother, or using the mother’s adult stem cells, allowed a match.  Dr. Amar Nijagal, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, said that now they can “really think big” in terms of in-the-womb adult stem cell treatments for “everything from neurological disorders to muscular disorders before birth.”