ad info

 Diet & Fitness

 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards




Stem cells promise big breakthroughs in treating disease

Stem cell vault
The key to curing many ailments might come from stem cells  

January 21, 1999
Web posted at: 9:36 p.m. EST (0236 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The term "stem cells" hasn't slipped into everyday language yet, but doctors and researchers believe that some day they will be used to treat all sorts of ailments, from heart disease to skin burns to Parkinson's disease.

"We're talking about new technologies that are going to revolutionize medicine," says Dr. Joseph Itskovitz of Rambam Medical Center in Israel.

So what exactly are stem cells? They're "blank" cells that potentially can be turned into virtually any tissue in the human body, creating a supply of spare body tissues.

"Imagine you can grow up millions of cells in a dish, and then by giving a signal of some sort, you can then convert those cells into a million neurons of some kind or a million cardiac muscle cells," says Dr. John Gearhart of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution.

What would doctors do with a supply of cardiac muscle cells? Well, when someone has a heart attack, the cells are damaged. But a dose of new cells, made in the lab, could heal the damage.

So when will all this happen?

"I think with certain cell types, we could certainly consider a 5- to 7-year period as being within reach," Gearhart says.

So far, only three universities have managed to manufacture stem cells in a lab. To do so, they had to start with a human embryo or fetus.

Gearhart used aborted fetuses in his work; Itskovitz used fertilized eggs that were in a lab and no longer needed by couples undergoing fertility treatments.

While some religious leaders object to this type of research, this week the National Institutes of Health said it would start funding it.

Doctors say the federal funding will speed up stem cell research tremendously.

Related stories:
Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help


Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.