Author archives: David Prentice

They Treat Goats Don’t They?

by David Prentice

September 29, 2011

Adult stem cells are being used extensively in the veterinary world to treat various animals, including horses and dogs. Now add goats to that list of creatures great and small that have benefited from the practical success of adult stem cells. Cinnamon the Goat has apparently become the first goat treated with its own adult stem cells. The procedure was performed by Kentucky veterinarian Dr. Clark Slone. The goat had some fat tissue removed and adult stem cells isolated from the tissue, then re-injected to treat damaged ligaments and joints. The vet expects that Cinnamon will be moving well within a month.

NIH Adds Three More Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines

by David Prentice

September 28, 2011

Yesterday NIH Director Francis Collins approved three more human embryonic stem cell lines for taxpayer funding, bringing the total to 135. It’s been about a month since the last approvals, and just over three months since the rush to approve a large number of lines. Two of the three new lines from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center appear to have chromosomal abnormalities, as well as to be from destruction of full siblings.

Rejuvenating Aged Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

September 21, 2011

Scientists have reversed the aging process for human adult stem cells. Researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown in laboratory studies that they can turn back the clock on the aging of adult stem cells, which are responsible for maintenance and repair of old and damaged tissues in the body. Adult stem cells are also the gold standard for patient treatments, now being used for dozens of diseases in thousands of patients around the globe.

The modern “stem cell hypothesis of aging” suggests that living organisms are as old as their adult stem cells, which explains the decline in regenerative power of our tissues as we age. Most cells show aging by the shortening of DNA sequences called telomeres, on the ends of chromosomes. As a cell ages, the telomeres get shorter, similar to a fuse burning down. But adult stem cells tend to maintain these fuses, so the researchers hypothesized that these repair stem cells must age by a different mechanism. They found that as we and our adult stem cells age, 65% of the DNA damage in self-renewing adult stem cells occurred within small sections of DNA called “transposable elements” or “retrotransposons”. Co-author King Jordan said:

Retrotransposons were previously thought to be non-functional and were even labeled as ‘junk DNA’, but accumulating evidence indicates these elements play an important role in genome regulation.”

Young adult stem cells were able to suppress the activity of these genetic elements and deal with DNA damage, but older adult stem cells were less able to suppress them. Senior author Victoria Lunyak said:

By suppressing the accumulation of toxic transcripts from retrotransposons, we were able to reverse the process of human adult stem cell aging in culture.”

Next steps will include validating the rejuvenation of adult stem cells in lab animals. The study is published in the journal Cell Cycle.

Adult Stem Cells Tested to Treat ALS

by David Prentice

September 21, 2011

An Israeli company is conducting a clinical trial using a patient’s own adult stem cells to treat ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.) The method using adult stem cells was developed by professors at Tel Aviv University. Cells are taken from a patient’s own bone marrow and differentiated in the lab into astrocytes, cells responsible for nurturing neurons in the brain. By releasing neurotrophic factors, which are proteins that can protect brain cells, the former bone marrow adult stem cells can protect and preserve brain cell function.

Prof. Daniel Offen, one of the developers of the technique, says he and his team bypassed the ethical and safety issues inherent in embryonic stem cells by using adult stem cells derived from a patient’s own bone marrow. In addition, he notes that because the original cells are drawn from the patients themselves, the body should have no adverse reactions.

The clinical trial has been started at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, but could be expanding soon to Massachusetts General Hospital in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Fourth Patient Endangered with Embryonic Stem Cells

by David Prentice

September 21, 2011

Stanford University is reporting that they have injected the fourth patient with embryonic stem cell-derived cells in Geron’s experiment on patients with a specific type of spinal cord injury.

Geron had previously announced the first and second patients, but not the third patient who was apparently injected in the last couple of months in Atlanta. Up to ten patients may be tested in the initial experiments. Patients will be monitored for 15 years because of the significant risk of tumor development. Scientists are still trying to overcome the cancerous potential of embryonic stem cells.

Adult stem cells have already successfully improved dozens of spinal cord injury patients, documented by peer-reviewed publications, and all without concerns for tumors, transplant rejection, or harm or destruction of the stem cell donor.

Appeal Filed in Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Lawsuit

by David Prentice

September 20, 2011

Attorneys for Dr. James Sherley and Dr. Theresa Deisher have filed a Notice of Appeal in the Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al. case. The appeal asks for the court to reverse the District Court’s ruling and stop federal taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research, which relies on the destruction of human embryos. The U.S. District Court had reluctantly ruled against Dr. Sherley and Dr. Deisher in July. The next steps will be for the U.S. Court of Appeals to schedule submission of legal briefs and oral arguments in the case.

Peyton Manning had Adult Stem Cell Procedure

by David Prentice

September 19, 2011

Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and four-time NFL MVP, apparently went to Europe to get an adult stem cell procedure on his neck, according to a report Sunday by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. Manning has had three surgeries on his neck in the last 19 months, Little detail was available, but the information indicates that the procedure may have used adipose (fat) derived adult stem cells from Manning’s own body; this autologous procedure (using your own adult stem cells) bypasses any problems of transplant rejection and is relatively safe. Manning’s adult stem cells may have then been injected around the site of his problem vertebra in the neck, to assist healing and help with spinal disc fusion. In that respect, it sounds similar to the procedure that Texas Gov. Rick Perry received in Houston, Texas, for his back problem.

Glazer indicates in his report that Manning went to Europe for the adult stem cell procedure because it is not yet approved in the U.S. This may be true, since Europe is well ahead of the U.S. in current use of stem cells for actual patient treatments. ALL of those treatments involve adult stem cells, of course.

Glazer’s suggestion that only embryonic stem cell treatments are available in the U.S. is inaccurate, however. It’s true that the only three approved clinical trials experimenting with embryonic stem cells are in the U.S.; with a total of four patients known to have been injected with the dangerous embryonic stem cells, and no results as yet.

But there are actually over 2,200 FDA-approved adult stem cell clinical trials ongoing or completed, most of which in this list are in the U.S. That includes several adult stem cell trials using adult stem cells for spinal fusion, and even a couple of adipose-derived adult stem cell trials in Indianapolis. Maybe Peyton realized that only adult stem cells had real potential for safe and ethical treatment of patients. Hopefully, he will talk about his experience so more people understand the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells.

Ten Years of Healing Hearts with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

September 16, 2011

Prof. Dr. med. Bodo-Eckehard Strauer did his first clinical treatment using adult stem cell transplant for a heart patient on March 30, 2001, over ten years ago. Since that time, he and his team have treated hundreds of patients, have published a text on such heart treatments, and many other groups around the world have used adult stem cells for treatment of heart disease.

Now Prof. Dr. med. Strauer and his colleague, Prof. Dr. med. Gustav Steinhoff, have published a review of the field of adult stem cell therapy for heart:

10 Years of Intracoronary and Intramyocardial Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy of the Heart: From the Methodological Origin to Clinical Practice

The paper is published as a “State-of-the-Art Paper” in Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It is far more than a historical overview. The paper discusses the rationale for use of adult stem cells to repair cardiac tissue, examines various routes of administration to the heart as well as possible mechanisms of action, documents the effectiveness in studies treating acute as well as chronic heart damage including chronic dilated cardiomyopathy, and provides perspectives for future studies to improve heart treatments. Regarding previous studies of adult stem cells for heart therapy, the authors note:

Thus, the therapeutic advantage clearly prevails, and clinical use has already been realized.

and point to the future

Interest should be focused on adult stem cell projects that have already proven significant clinical efficacy, but without having any ethical concerns.”

Green Fluorescent Kitty to Study Disease

by David Prentice

September 12, 2011

Hard to lose this kitty in the dark, since it fluoresces a green color. Mayo clinic researchers have created a transgenic cat, genetically engineered to glow green. They used a technique called gamete-targeted lentiviral transgenesis, inserting genes into cat oocytes before fertilization with normal sperm. This was the first time the technique had succeeded with a carnivore. Besides inserting the GFP (green fluorescent protein) gene, which was actually used for tracking purposes, they also inserted a gene from rhesus monkeys—TRIMCyp—that is a “restriction factor”, known to block Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), the feline equivalent of the human AIDS virus (HIV). When some of the kittens glowed green, it was evidence that the FIV-blocking gene had been successfully transferred. The successful gene transfer was also verified by the ability of the transgenic cats to pass on their glowing personality to their offspring (F1 generation), showing that the transferred genes were present in the germline.

According to researchers, cats are valuable models for the study of numerous human conditions. This line of cats will help studies related to FIV and HIV infection. Initial tests already show that the blood cells of the transgenic cats are resistant to growth of the FIV virus.

Previous attempts to generate genetically-engineered cats tried to use cloning techniques (somatic cell nuclear transfer; SCNT), but the authors note in relation to SCNT cloning:

However, the efficiency of animal cloning is extremely low, and SCNT results in faulty epigenetic reprogramming in most embryos. Cloned mammals with apparently normal gross anatomy can have many abnormalities resulting from failure to erase and reprogram epigenetic memory completely.”

In short, SCNT cloning has been an abysmal failure. But the technique used by the Mayo Clinic scientists is supposedly much better. According to senior author Dr. Eric Poeschla:

The 23% success rate is much higher than the typical 3% seen with somatic cell nuclear transfer. Almost all of our pregnancies were transgenic, and that efficiency is important so you dont have to extensively screen these large animals. The really great thing is that the animals were healthy and fertile and their kittens were healthy.

The article is published in the journal Nature Methods.

Note that is not the first green fluorescent cat; Mr. Green Genes made his debut in October 2008. And will the green-fluorescent cat be chased by the red-fluorescent dog?

Grow Your Own Transfusion with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

September 9, 2011

Scientists have shown for the first time that cultured red blood cells can be grown in the lab from adult stem cells and injected successfully into a human. While embryonic stem cells produce only unsuitable, immature cells, with rejection and uncontrolled tumor growth remaining a concern as well, by contrast adult stem cells can efficiently produce healthy, safe cells for transfusion.

French scientists took hematopoietic stem cells (HSC’s; the adult stem cells that form all blood cells) from a human donor and from those cells, generated billions of “cultured red blood cells” (cRBC’s) in the laboratory. They first tested the function of the cells by injection into mice, showing that the lab-generated cells were able to mature fully.

Then they took adult stem cells from a human volunteer donor, made more cells in the lab, and injected ten billion cells back into the human donor. The cells survived and functioned comparable to normal red blood cells.

Dr. Luc Douay, senior study author, noted:

Although previous research has shown that HSCs can be developed into fully matured red blood cells, this is the first study that has proven that they are capable of survival in the human body, a major breakthrough for the transplant community. The results from our study establish the feasibility of the concept of transfusing cRBCs and show promise that an unlimited blood reserve is within reach. Although the full-scale production of these cells will require additional technological advances in cell engineering, we believe cRBCs could prove to be a valid alternative to classic transfusion products that will not only provide an adequate supply of blood, but reduce the risk of life-threatening complications and infections that can accompany traditional transfusion.”

The study was published online in the journal Blood.