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  Adult Stem Cells Give Hope for Healing

Monday, November 20, 2006

By Dr. Manny Alvarez

Stem cell research is a much debated and controversial topic in modern medicine. However, the controversy around embryonic stem cells has also sparked an interest in a less ethically risky option: using stem cells taken from adults to treat various diseases.

To understand the amazing impact stem cell use can have for modern medicine you should first understand what a stem cell is.

At first, all life comes from a single cell. Humans grow from just one fertilized egg into a tremendously complex organism. Each organ has its own specialized cells that "know" how to carry out their own special functions. A stem cell, however, is like that very first cell we all originally come from: it is able to become any cell we need it to be.

In fact, the fertilized egg is basically our very first stem cell; from it, we develop all the other cell types found within the human body. Adults still have stem cells in their tissues as they grow and adult stem cells have been collected from bone marrow for many years. They are different from embryonic stem cells because they have passed a certain point of "no return,"meaning they cannot develop into an organ; however the possibilities are still tremendous as they can become different cell types.

Adult stem cells can be found in the umbilical cord blood and placenta when babies are born, and can be saved or "banked" to offer new parents a certain peace of mind. Although stem cells from cord blood are the child's "own," and therefore can be transplanted without the risk of rejection, there is a limit to the number of cells that can be acquired.

"Some treatments may need more cells than you can extract from cord blood," says Dr. Julio Guerra, director of sales and marketing at Neostem (, a company specializing in the collection, processing and long-term storage of adult stem cells for one's own use (autologous).

"It can save a child's life if certain blood disorders develop in the early years, but there may not be enough cells to treat an older child," Dr. Guerra continued. "Adult stem cells could hold the key to life-long health by facilitating treatment of devastating diseases and as a result increasing longevity."

Banked adult stem cells can be used at a future date to treat a wide array of diseases, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and many other diseases. Because these are a person's own cells, there is no concern about finding a matched donor.

"A great benefit to using one's own adult stem cells is the fact that you do not have to worry about rejection of cells since your own cells are used for your treatment," noted Neostem's CEO and Chairman Dr. Robin Smith, M.D., M.B.A.

To place this in perspective, consider that less than 20 percent of patients who need a bone marrow transplant actually find a match in time to treat their disease.

There are currently over 160 clinical trials using autologous stem cells. New studies describing the clinical benefits of adult stem cells in the treatment of diseases are being published almost daily. Countless research teams around the world are trying to study the possibility of using adult stem cells to grow skin, improve muscle, build cartilage, and regenerate the vital cells of a failing organ.

In addition, growing interest in regenerative medicine is also driving the demand for convenient stem cell banking methods. The results so far are definitely promising.

-- The Journal of American Medical Association reported a study where 50 percent of patients with Lupus (SLE) treated with stem cells were disease-free five years after treatment.

-- The Journal of Rheumatology showed that 73 percent of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis were able to be controlled on medication after being treated with stem cells.

-- The journal Nature even reported the use of adult stem cells to repair vision of blind mice.

We will likely continue to see more results of clinical trials using adult stem cells to address other diseases such as diabetes, wound healing and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. If these techniques are successful, we would have much less need for donor organs; we would improve conditions that previously decreased someone's lifespan or quality of life, such as diabetes, blindness, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's; multiple sclerosis could be cured.

According to Dr. Guerra, clinical trials are already under way in the cardiovascular department:

"As far as treatments go, great advances are being made in improving cardiac status of those individuals with end-stage heart disease and repairing the damaged tissue of those having heart attacks," Dr. Guerra said. "Additionally, you do not have the potential issue of tumor formation which has been seen with embryonic cells," he added.

Now adults have the option to collect and save their own stem cells through a non-invasive and safe procedure, a bio-insurance for future use, and one that may just save your life.

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.,2933,230921,00.html

Adult Stem Cell Research Reverses Effects of Parkinson's Disease in Human Trial

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 16, 2009

Los Angeles, CA ( -- Scientists have published a paper in a medical journal describing the results of the world's first clinical trial using autologous neural stem cells for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. A leading bioethics watchdog says the results show more money should be put behind adult stem cells.

UCLA researchers published their results in February issue of the Bentham Open Stem Cell Journal which outlines the long term results of the trial.

"We have documented the first successful adult neural stem cell transplantation to reverse the effects of Parkinson's disease and demonstrated the long term safety and therapeutic effects of this approach," says lead author Dr. Michel Levesque.

The paper describes how Levesque's team was able to isolate patient-derived neural stem cells, multiply them in vitro and ultimately differentiate them to produce mature neurons before they are reintroduced into the brain.

The team was able to inject the adult stem cells without the need for immunosuppressants. Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cell injections don't cause a patient's immune system to reject the cells.

The adult stem cells were highly beneficial for the patient involved in the study.

"Of particular note are the striking results this study yielded -- for the five years following the procedure the patient's motor scales improved by over 80% for at least 36 months," Levesque wrote.

He said he hoped a larger clinical trial would replicate the findings.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who is now a fellow with the Family Research Council, tells that the results of the study are wonderful news for patients.

"This evidence had been presented previously, but we now have the peer-reviewed scientific evidence for the effectiveness of adult stem cells in alleviating Parkinson's symptoms," he said. "While the data show that the technique needs refinement, this patient went for several years with little to no symptoms of his disease, even with only half of the brain treated with his own adult stem cells."

Prentice says the results continue to prove that adult stem cells outpace their embryonic counterparts.

"People need to take notice that it is not embryonic stem cells that provide promise of treatments in the future, but rather it is adult stem cells that are already providing safe and effective therapies for patients now, without the problems of rejection or tumors," Prentice explains.

"We need to pour our resources, especially taxpayer dollars, into adult stem cell research to foster more and better treatments and put the patients first," he told

Levesque is a principal investigator for NeuroGeneration, a biotechnology company, and is affiliated with the UCLA School of Medicine and the Brain Research Institute.



  Study Finds Adult Stem Cells, Not Embryonic, Best Suited for Repairing Muscle

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 26, 2009

Washington, DC ( -- A new study involving researchers from Maryland and Indiana finds that adult stem cells, not embryonic, are best suited for damaged and diseased muscle. The new research, published in the medial journal Nature, involved experiments in mice.

The scientists found the genes involved in muscle development are turned off soon after birth, and are not used by adult stem cells that repair muscle.

The researchers, at the Carnegie Institute’s Department of Embryology in Baltimore, learned that a different set of genes active in adult muscle stem cells take over to repair muscle damage.

This suggests that adult stem cells are best suited for repairing muscle in muscular dystrophy and other muscle injuries.

Lead author Christoph Lepper said “I thought that if they are so important in the embryo, they must be important for adult muscle stem cells. I was totally surprised to find that the muscle stem cells are normal without them.”

"Our discovery should encourage future investigations into how widespread genetic transitions may occur in different adult stem-cell types. Age-dependent differences in stem-cell properties should also urge careful consideration of the age of stem cells used in transplantation-based regenerative medicine," the authors added.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who now is a research fellow at the Family Research Council, emailed comments to responding to the study.

"The implications? Studying embryonic stem cells is an inadequate substitute for directly studying how adult stem cells carry out their normal repair functions in the body, and embryonic stem cells themselves are inadequate substitutes for adult stem cells in medical therapies," he explained.

"In other words, don't use a sledgehammer instead of precision equipment," he said.

Matt Mohler of Citizens for Science and Ethics, also commented on the new study.

"These findings strengthen the argument that scientists should continue to focus their resources on adult stem cell research," he said.