July 6, 2008
The political debates produce a lot heat and hype regarding stem cells but when it actually comes to helping patients, adult stem cells continue to provide success and real promise.
Given the results as well as a view toward the bottom line, it's not surprising that Big Pharma is investing in adult stem cells.
Pfizer recently invested $3 million in a new San Diego company, EyeCyte, which will develop adult stem cell treatments for eye diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The company is based on the work of Dr. Martin Friedlander, who has repaired retinal damage in animals using adult stem cells (here is one of the scientific papers)
In the meantime, Perkin-Elmer has established a cord blood research institute to investigate more clinical uses for these stem cells. They note that "Cord blood is a valuable, non-controversial source of stem cells with proven effect in treating more than 70 serious diseases, including many cancers and immunodeficiencies. To date, more than 10,000 cord blood transplants have been performed worldwide. In the future, medical use of cord blood stem cells may be expanded to include treatment of cardiac disease, autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders."
Other companies, such as Cytori, are already pioneering the use of adult stem cells for reconstructive surgery, as well as other uses including repair of heart damage. And the company Osiris is moving rapidly ahead with several applications, including for graft-vs-host disease, Crohn's disease, and even chronic lung disease. Randall Mills, CEO of Osiris notes
"One of the pieces of rhetoric you hear all of the time is that the U.S. is far behind in stem cell research because of this or that but the fact is, we are not only the furthest along in the U.S., but the world."
From the government angle, the real value of adult stem cells to patients has been recognized by the Department of Defense, which formed the $250 million Armed Forces Institute for Regenerative Medicine, with the goal of using wounded soldiers' own cells in repair of damage. And in the U.K. the government has boosted the local economy with a 3 million investment in an adult stem cell lab at Durham University.
The recognition of adult stem success and the real benefits to health can only continue to help more patients.