Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stem cells: This time, it's personal

I'm getting a quick education in spinal cord injury research since my nephew's accident. (Continued prayers, please! He has a wife and a little girl at home, 3 years old.)

This is exciting:

Olfactory mucosa transplantation is a procedure by which the adult stem cells are removed from the nasal mucosa and transplanted into the specific areas of damaged tissue. Such a procedure has already shown very positive results in the treatment of spinal cord injury. .... Dr. Carlos Lima, a neuropathologist at Egaz-Moniz Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, developed the procedure and has successfully treated approximately 30 patients who were suffering with spinal cord injury.

In one case, a female individual was paralyzed from the neck down with a C6 vertebral burst fracture after surviving a car accident at the age of 16. Although doctors at several hospitals in the U.S. emphatically assured her that she would never walk again, one specialist informed her of a new procedure that had been developed in Portugal. Within 6 months of receiving a stem cell transplantation from Dr. Lima that involved the use of her own stem cells derived from her own olfactory bulb, she was told by her physical therapists that her spinal cord had begun healing, and MRI scans confirmed that 70% of the lesions that developed after her injury had resolved into normal spinal tissue. She continued to acquire sensation in her extremities and eventually was able to stand and walk with the aid of a walker.

Another patient who was left paraplegic after a car accident with vertebral injuries to T7 and T8 was able to walk again, with braces, within one year after receiving Dr. Lima’s stem cell transplantation. Yet another patient, who was left quadriplegic from a spinal cord injury, regained bladder control and arm and leg movement after being injected with stem cells from her own nasal mucosa by Dr. Lima.

Dr. Jean D. Peduzzi-Nelson, a professor of psychological optics at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, has collaborated with Dr. Lima on this new technique and has testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation regarding the scientific efficacy and safety of this procedure. Dr. Peduzzi-Nelson as well as other scientists, physicians and neurologists in the U.S. are now seeking Congressional and FDA approval for this treatment to be legalized and made available in the United States. (Emphasis mine. People are being successfully treated with this method, but all the brouhaha raised by people obsessed with only wanting embryonic stem cells are getting all the media attention!)

Other therapies have shown positive results when patients with spinal cord injuries were treated with mesenchymal stem cells in combination with CD34. One patient in particular who was paralyzed below the mid-chest level with a T5 injury regained feeling and muscle control in the pelvis, along with restored sensation in his feet, after receiving 3 such treatments. The patient continues to improve. Mesenchymal stem cells are adult pluripotent progenitor cells with the ability to self-renew indefinitely and with differentiation capacities that yield a variety of tissue types including cartilage, bone, muscle, tendon, ligament, fat and nerve. CD34 refers to a group of clustered differentiation molecules, also known as transmembrane glycoproteins, that function as cell-to-cell adhesion factors and which also mediate the attachment of stem cells to the extracellular matrix. They are found in abundance in umbilical cord blood, endothelial cells and in bone marrow hematopoeitic cells, from which they may be isolated via immunomagnetic methods. Undifferentiated CD34+ mononuclear cells are pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells and as such exhibit a vast range of differentiation capabilities.

Adult stem cells offer the same pluripotency as embryonic stem cells, but without the danger of forming teratomas (tumors), which remains a serious risk from embryonic stem cells. It is neither necessary nor desirable to use embryonic stem cells in the treatment of spinal cord injuries or other disorders, since a growing number of studies are showing increasing success with adult stem cells. In fact, the only stem cell studies that have ever shown success in the treatment of any human disease have involved adult stem cells, since no study has ever been conducted in which a disease was successfully treated with human embryonic stem cells, although this fact is not generally reported by the media. Ever since researchers first isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998, there has never been a successful treatment for any human disease in a human being by embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells have in fact proven to be very problematic, whereas bone marrow and cord blood stem cells, by contrast, have been safely used by doctors for over 40 years. Human umbilical cord blood in particular is now known to be a rich source of growth factors and cytokines, both of which are necessary for the regeneration of tissue, and stem cells that are derived from human umbilical cord blood have been shown to be more effective at tissue regeneration than are other types of stem cells that lack such additional factors. Ethics and politics aside, adult stem cells are highly preferable to embryonic stem cells purely for scientific reasons.

Here are some success stories.

This young woman had success in Portugal. Here is her doctor's paper in the Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine. READ IT!! It's amazing.

Well it's late here in the Land of Spit and Bailing Wire. Additional information about treatments that might help Benj would be very welcome.


Anonymous said...

You idiot, nobody is walking yet after treatment with stem cells yet.
You should study more or do not publish stupdities.

Christina Dunigan said...

Anon, I feel the love. I thank God that you are nowhere near my family. I pray that whatever it is that is making you so mean and bitter, you're healed of it. You can't be happy if you're so snotty to somebody who's just recieved such devastating news about a famly member.