Odds and Ends
Odds and Ends
The cracking sound you hear is my knuckles as I get ready to write again after a week away spent entirely with other people, including a five year old. A wonderful five year old, but you know, stem cell stories just aren’t bedtime reading…. Anyway, I’m just going to summarize a few things here for now, and stories that deserve more in depth writing will get fuller treatment later. (He goes back to school next week.)
The ABC ran a short a personal story about an Australian man taking part in a heart stem cell trial involving injection of stem cells derived from bones into the heart. This is similar to other studies that have been done on both people and animals. In other heart related news, the singer Don Ho, who underwent a stem cell treatment for heart problems in Thailand, is feeling much better, according to an AP story in the South Carolina publication The State.
The Houston Chronicle reported on an upcoming trial at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Memorial Hermann Children's Hospital that will use stem cells to treat brain injury in children. It is a Phase One safety trial and will enroll 10 kids. The study will use stem cells derived from the children’s’ hip bone marrow; some of the cells will be those that differentiate into blood cells, and some will be those that differentiate into fat, neurons, cartilage, and bone. The patients will be drawn from those children who suffer a head injury and are offered the option of the trial as part of the treatment. According to the Chronicle article, the researchers
said they have heard some criticism about starting research on the untested therapy with children. But noting the dimension of the problem among young people, the therapy's potential with adolescents and the differing responses likely in adults, they said denying it to children "would be a disservice."
According to a press release (available on EurekAlert), researchers at “Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have devised a novel strategy that uses stem cell-based gene therapy and RNA interference to genetically reverse sickle cell disease (SCD) in human cells.” A gene that produces normal hemoglobin and represses the production of the abnormal sickle-cell hemoglobin was introduced into hematopoietic stem cells and caused them to function normally. This means that patients could receive transplants of their own stem cells, which have been genetically altered, instead of having to rely on a donor stem cell transplants and their associated problems with potential rejection.
The Chicago Sun Times reported on ongoing research using stem cells to grow new teeth. A British researcher plans to take stem cells from the patient, cultivate them in the lab, and then transplant them into the site of the missing tooth. He is seeking a grant to begin testing on human within three years. An American researcher has “used rat stem cells to grow well-formed crowns, with layers of enamel, dentin and pulp”. It is expected that the first work will be done on repairs of cracks and replacement of pulp (thus potentially eliminating root canals!), and that growing whole teeth would not be possible for about 10 years.
The important news to be read and analyzed carefully by me in the next few days is the passage of an umbilical cord blood bill by Congress (it was signed into law by the President), and of course the ongoing South Korean issues.
For a quick link on the cord blood bill, you can read an editorial that appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer. I’ll write more when I have a little more time, but bottom line is that “H.R.2520, Title: To provide for the collection and maintenance of human cord blood stem cells for the treatment of patients and research, and to amend the Public Health Service Act to authorize the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program” became law 12-20-05. It was approved unanimously with an amendment by both the Senate and the House (which had to revote because of the amendment).
The latest news from Seoul is that the so far testers have not been able to verify that Dr. Hwang created patient-specific cloned cells, and Dr. Hwang has resigned from the university. The 11 cell lines have in fact turned out to be only two. More news will be coming later in the week. You can read some of the stories on this at Forbes, Reuters, Science Daily, UPI, and Chosun Ilbo.