The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 5, 2001 Issue
Special Section:
Respect Life Month

Adult cells vs. embryonic

What we know - and don't know - may surprise you

By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

There is much debate about the medical usefulness and potential of stem cells -- both adult and embryonic. Below is a listing of the some recent findings of uses for both in medical research and treatment:

Adult Stem Cell Treatments:

Bone marrow transplants used to treat lymphoma, Hodgkins disease, inherited immune system disorders, leukemia and aplastic anemia (U.S. Health and Human Services, Aug. 4, 2001)

Bone marrow can be turned into kidney cells (Imperial Cancer Research Fund, July 2001)

Some patients with severe lupus have been free of disease three years after treatment with adult stem cells (National Institutes for Health, Aug. 2001)

Adult stem cells used to regenerate heart tissue (Orlic, NIH, Aug. 2001)

United Kingdom scientists at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund report bone marrow can be turned into liver tissue. (BBC News, July 2000)

Researchers at Canada's Stem Cell Network have turned stem cells from skin of mice into brain cells, including neurons (Nature Cell Biology, Sept. 2001).

Use of stem cells reversed diabetes in mice (Nature Medicine, March 2000).

Note: Adult stem cells can be taken directly from the patient, avoiding rejection risk and need for anti-rejection medication.

Embryonic Stem Cell Treatments:

National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke in Bethesda, Md., has used mouse ESC to produce insulin and glucagon. (Science, April 26, 2001). Do No Harm, a national coalition of researchers, health care professionals, bioethicists and legal professionals, immediately reported that these cells had secreted only 1/50th of the normal insulin output and the treated mice still died of diabetes. (April 27, 2001)

Scientists at Johns Hopkins report restoring movement to 50% of newly paralyzed mice suffering from symptoms similar to Lou Gehrig's Disease by injecting stem cells into the animals' spinal fluid (Nov. 2000).

"To date, adult stem cell research, which is federally funded, has resulted in the development of a variety of therapeutic treatments for diseases. Although embryonic stem cell research has not yet produced similar results, many scientists believe embryonic stem cell research holds promise over time because of the capacity of embryonic stem cells to develop into any tissue in the human body" -- White House Fact Sheet, "Embryonic Stem Cell Research", Aug. 9, 2001.

Note: Current embryonic stem cell lines are grown in animal cells and may be contaminated by animal viruses.

Embryonic Stem Cell Treatments of Potential Use:

Can be turned into hematopoietic (blood stem) cells. (UW-Madison, Sept. 3, 2001)

Mouse embryonic stem cells can be differentiated into dendritic cells (a type of immune cell) "indicating that a stem cell-based approach might work in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (NIH, Aug. 4, 2001)

Researchers at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have grown the precursors of heart cells from human embryonic stem cells. (Journal of Clinical Investigation, August 2001)

Note: Embryonic stem cell treatments would require life-long anti-rejection drugs because of foreign tissues. Embryonic stem cells also show a tendency to replicate unchecked and for tumorous growths.

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