Monday, January 08, 2007
The Potential of Stem Cells
Stem cells - which have the potential to turn into different cells in the body and could theoretically provide treatment for a number of debilitating diseases - have touched off passionate debate in recent years. Last fall, ads by actor Michael J. Fox became a factor in campaigns by stem cell friendly political candidates and a state referendum on funding of stem cell research.

Today there's more stem cell news. In a study published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University found cells in amniotic fluid that appear to have the same qualities as other stem cells. This discovery would seem to allow researchers to sidestep the controversial "embryonic stem cells," which can be harvested only by destroying an embryo.

When researchers injected these cells, called human AFS cells, into mice, they saw bones, muscles, and nerves grow. This has also been accomplished to varying degrees with human embryonic cells and so-called adult stem cells, such as bone marrow cells.

The goal for all of this research is to find a way to convert these stem cells into therapies that may someday treat illnesses including diabetes, Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.

The new research is promising especially because these AFS cells seem to reproduce as quickly as human embryonic stem cells. Also, the supply would seem nearly limitless, because they're found in the womb of every pregnant woman. Amniotic fluid is routinely extracted from expectant mothers over 35 to check for fetal chromosome abnormalities. The cells also are present in the placenta.

This isn't the first study to show promise in stem cells taken from amniotic or placental cells. Researchers are still working to develop actual therapies - in humans - with any of these various stem cells.

In the case of these AFS cells in particular, any therapies are still many years away, according to the study's lead author, Dr Anthony Atala.

The new finding is exciting, but research on all the types of stem cells will continue. As most stem cell researchers have told us in the past, and as Dr. Atala agrees, different types of stem cells may work better for different illnesses. AFS cells may turn out to be the best for one disease, but for another, human embryonic stem cells may work best. And for yet another, adult stem cells may provide the best remedy.
This article is very interesting.
Me myself have many of these moments.
I never knew what they really ment.
I thank you for doing this article. >.<
It would be extremely interesting to know whether there has been any research done for the use of stem cells for patients with the alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, so common, in fact, but not well known and responsible for terrible liver diseases in children, for example, and lung deterioration in adolescents nd adults. I am searching for all knowledge available on this subject having founded, with a lung specialist, an alpha-1 association for patients in Switzerland and our members wish to work on fund raising for stem cell research.Can you help us? Thank you. Ghislaine Vautier,
When will CNN start to address autoimmune disorders. I have lupus and Sjogren's Syndrome and autoimmune disorders are more complicated than cancers and just as deadly and I am tired by the lack of concern by the media. I want CNN do a series of specials and call it "Friendly Fire: When the Body Attacks Itself"
Hey Dr. Sanjay:
At 75 it is a little late for me to find my way into Medical School, however you can clarify a point for me. Who do my Stem cells belong to? Bush?
If it is possible to harvest stem cells from this living body I assume is mine, then where do I line up?
If I can donate blood, or a kidney what's stopping me from donating some adult stem cells; even while I'm alive?
The wealthy Republican donors don't want to suffer from life threatening and debilitating diseases, and they are the ones with the most influence on the vote. So they would be more then glad to help stem cell research. Yet, Relations between stem cell research and abortion are greatly similar, and since they had already gone with the Christian movement to go against abortion they would be hypocritical in going with stem cell research.
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