A 70-Year-Old Poster Boy for Science – Man Saved by the Stem Cell

Mike had an angioplasty, triple-bypass heart surgery. Inside him were four wires, two stents, a pacemaker and a defibrillator. He had apparently run out of options in battling heart disease.

“After the last stent, doctors told me there was nothing more they could do for Mike,” said his wife, Marion.

However, science delivered a response. At the Minneapolis Heart Institute which is part of Abbott Northwestern Hospital, the 70-year-old Mike became a recipient of experimental stem cell treatment in January.

Different from controversial embryonic stem cell research, the treatment uses Mike’s own stem cells. Earlier this month, saying the utilization of embryos to perform stem cell research amounts to murder, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

Mike said his experience has strengthened his support of all stem cell research.

“Based on what has happened to me and based on what all the medical people have told us, this will be the real answer,” he said. “Just think of the possibilities Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal injuries.

“It’s not to make us live forever. It’s so we can feel better when we are living.”

Mike feeling healthier is not as apparent as black-and-white. The answer is truly in color.

Looking much like a weather map does with heavy storm activity; Mike shows colored images of his heart at his Riverside Park home. The dissimilar colors show the health of the different areas of his heart. Pink areas are the healthiest and brown areas are the worst.

Before his January treatment the map only displayed a hint of pink and a big brown area. At his recent six-month checkup, the brown has all but vanished and practically a third of his heart is fully pink.

The map confirmed what he already knew. “I have more stamina,” he said. “I just feel better.”

He knew his results were good for another reason, too. He was asked to offer a testimonial about the experimental research. His words and full-page photograph grace the professional brochure the institute uses to seek donations.

“I figured it was working because they wouldn’t ask a guy who wouldn’t be around when the brochure came out,” he said.

Mike’s treatment took only a few hours and one overnight stay, which was of no cost to him because the procedure is experimental.

The treatment had bone marrow cells drawn, treated and then injected into 15 ailing portions of the heart. The presumption, according to lead researcher Dr. Tim, is that bone marrow cells stimulate the growth of blood vessels. The researchers also use stem cells to grow new muscle in the heart in a similar study.

Mike has an enlarged heart that wasn’t getting adequate blood. More vessels improve the blood flow in the heart, thus making it healthier.

“Mike had blockages that you couldn’t fix with bypass or angioplasty,” Henry said. “Whenever he does any work, he has shortness of breath or pain.”

With Mike’s results just one example of the success, the doctor said the research looks promising. Although Tim said the research is “cutting edge,” the theory is quite simple.

“We’re constantly repairing our own body, whether it’s our blood vessels, skin or liver,” he said. “So using our own cells, this is the natural way that the body rebuilds itself.”

As a poster boy for cutting-edge science, Mike feels odd. After all, he’s lived a life of routines. For 37 years, he’s lived in the same home. He has moonlighted the last 25 years as a public address announcer at high school hockey games. He worked 36 years as a post office carrier before retiring in 1993, partly for health reasons. He and Marion are a week shy of their 52nd anniversary.

He’s widely known as a practical joker and someone whose happy, optimistic persona spreads cheer. He spends much of his retirement following his three granddaughters in their year-round athletic pursuits.

“Being part of this research is like winning the lottery,” he said. “What a lucky chance I got. I am just going to continue on like a ball of string unwinding into the future.”

He has lofty praise for his local doctors. He feels equally lucky with his other medical treatment in Grand Forks since the 1987 heart attack suffered while delivering mail.

“There’s always been some new procedure, new medication or new idea for me,” he said. “I’ve never had a bad experience in a hospital. I’ve always looked forward to going to my doctor appointments.

“When I went to the hospital in Minneapolis, I figured they’d fix me up again. And they did.”

So, he doesn’t require catnaps as before. For the first time in at least five years, he is mowing the lawn. A struggle to walk across his lawn before, he can now walk a mile without discomfort.

“But I don’t go dancing,” he said. “Of course, I never did.

Robotic Surgery Techniques Deliver Stem Cells – Cardiac Cell Therapy Research

Researchers effectively used robotic surgery to deliver stem cell treatment to damaged heart tissue in pigs at the University of Minnesota.

The robotic surgery apparatus was minimally invasive throughout the injection procedure. The researchers took an extra step and “marked” the transplanted cells with iron particles in an effort to see if they engrafted in the pig hearts.

In six of seven cases, the transplant process was successful. The cells took hold and enhanced functioning of the heart as following MRI studies showed.

The cells that give rise to muscle, also know as myoblasts, in combination with bone-marrow derived cells were used in the experiment. Improving the development of new blood vessels as well as the performance of injured heart muscles were key characteristics confirmed by the implantation of both cell types. Both are in human clinical trials as well.

The research is available in the current issue of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

The method could be applied in human clinical trials once additional animal studies are completed.

“In people with heart failure, open surgery can be risky; finding a minimally invasive technique to deliver cell therapy to the damaged cardiac tissue would reduce the risk to patients,” said Doris, Ph.D., professor of Physiology, holder of the Medtronic Bakken Chair in Cardiovascular Repair, and co-leader of the study.

The minimally invasive approach would present several benefits for people with heart failure, Doris said. It offers surgeons the capability to target the cell infusion more precisely by utilizing a magnified view of the heart. It requires less time under anesthesia and can be performed while the heart is still beating. It is less dangerous to the patient.

Harald, M.D., co-leader of this study, now a surgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, pointed out, “Currently these types of cell therapies, in which stem cells are injected into damaged hearts, are only available to people who are enrolled in clinical research trials.”

Skeletal and bone marrow cells that are injected into damaged heart tissue have been shown to improve function in the left ventricle, the chamber of the heart that pumps blood into the aorta, the main artery through which oxygen-rich blood flows from the heart to the body.

Doris said more research needs to be done to establish if the minimally invasive technique can promise comparable results to open surgery, as well as which types of cells are most beneficial to infuse into damaged hearts. “But that is what keeps us busy,” she added,” finding the best treatment for patients with heart disease.”

World’s First, Athens to Host Revolutionary Stem Cell Transplant

Does your baby’s umbilical cord hold a miracle?

A four year old boy will become the recipient of stem cells extracted from the umbilical cord of his baby sister who was just born last week in Athens. The boy is afflicted with chronic granulomatous disease, a congenital heterogeneous immunodeficiency disorder resulting from the failure of phagocytes to kill ingested microbes, resulting in increased susceptibility to severe infections that eventually leads to untimely death.

Being administered by geneticist Costas Pangalos and gynecologist Costas Pantos, the procedure will be the world’s first for this particular disease.

Dr. Pantos told ANA-MPA that the parents of the sick toddler’s parents also have a healthy older child. In the procedure, the mother’s ova (eggs) are fertilized in vitro. The fertilized ovaries then undergo a PGD (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis) to determine which fertilized ova are free of this particular hereditary disease, as well as a histocompatibility test for compatibility with the ailing child. The disease-free, compatible ovum is than implanted into the woman’s uterus.

The procedure was innovative given that no tissue or blood was taken from the infant itself, Pantos explained. Instead the treatment was of the kind where stem cells from the blood contained in either the umbilical cord or the placenta — both of which are discarded after the birth takes place — are used to save lives.

Given traditional treatment, the 4-year-old boy’s prognosis would not be good due to the fact that the disease becomes fatal when the patient reaches the age of 10-15, However, the countdown for the boy will be stopped as soon as the stem-cell transplantation takes place at Athens’ Agia Sophia Children’s Hospital in the following weeks.

In seven months’ time for a comparable reason, a second baby will be born into another family in Ilioupolis, Athens. Again, the specialized tests conducted before the in-vitro-fertilized ovum was implanted in the mother’s uterus came out exceptional like in the first case, according to Pangalos and Pantos.

According to Pangalos, this is a world-first and it is a major scientific achievement showing that Greece has great technological potential. “A single cell can provide the information that an embryo is healthy and histocompatible, a state or condition in which the absence of immunological interference permits the grafting of tissue or the transfusion of blood without rejection,” he said. “Only two or three research centers in the United States, one in France, an Italian, a German and we, have the necessary technological capability,” added Prof. Pangalos. “From now on, the greatest application of this method will be the treatment of children suffering from cancer. There are not enough donors, and unfortunately children die. This technique can save their lives,” he stressed.

Prof. Pangalos will announce this world first achievement by Greek doctors and geneticists at the American Geneticists Conference in October.

What Great News! Embryonic Stem Cells Unnecessary!

With the controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells, the above headline may come as a shock. The recent veto by President George Bush that denied extra federal funding for research conducted on embryonic stem cells, along with the clamor and backlash the decision faced from scientists, politicians, and various institutions, has all but confirmed the importance of embryonic stem cells. Is that not right? Perhaps not, as commentator Pat Boone recently found out. The fact is, embryonic stem cells may not be as important as we all think.

A couple of months ago, I was in downtown Los Angeles, at the courthouse, doing my jury duty for several days. There are always breaks and lulls, during which time hundreds of participants can and do talk and get to know each other. I actually enjoyed it.

During one of those breaks, I was electrified by a conversation with an L.A. scientist/engineer/businessman named John. Somehow the subject of embryonic stem-cell research came up, and I expressed my deep concerns about the eventual creation of nascent embryos and then the use of them in laboratory experiments. The state of California recently committed 3 billion taxpayer dollars, over the strenuous objections of many of us, to this experimentation.

Boone thinks like many of us today, that embryonic stem cells hold some sort of key to all our ailments. However, the moral dilemma that many individuals have with using embryos fuels the controversy. It seems as if the only thing keeping us from making great medical strides and developing advanced and effective treatments for illnesses that are incurable, is money to do the research needed to find the answers, and the elimination of any moral and religious debate. This has been the underlying principle behind embryonic stem cell research as Boone describes.

The rationale, the hope, is that pure embryonic stem cells might be effective in treating dire conditions like Parkinson’s, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease. There’s no proof, just the hope and projections of eager scientists and many large medical companies, and the very understandable desire of so many whose lives are affected by these and other maladies. The yearnings to find cures, somehow, somewhere, are overriding the moral questions about actually fertilizing a human egg with a human sperm, creating a life (obviously, if the new creation isn’t living, it’s useless) – and then dissecting and short-circuiting the inevitable development of this living organism in a search for a possible cure-all.

John continued to explain to Boone what his company specialized in. Dr. John said that it was non-controversial stem cells and treatment. He told Boone about the research that they had done and in detail pointed out the differences between embryonic and non-embryonic stem cells. Boone’s commentary below shows his amazement at what he heard. Because like many of us today, he was led to believe by the media and hype surrounding embryonic stem cells, that they were the only answer and that any moral dilemmas any of us face would have to be sequestered.

John told me about his company, a Los Angeles based adult stem-cell company whose goal is to develop stem-cell products for the life science and health-care industries. He informed me that the scientific founders of this company have over 30 years of experience in stem-cell research –and that they have discovered a novel stem cell from adult tissues with properties similar to cells obtained from embryos! These cells can be – and are being – recovered from almost any tissue found in adult humans, while maintaining many of the properties described for embryonic stem cells!

I was astounded.

John went on to tell me about the research conducted all these years by Dr. H and his colleagues in laboratories in Georgia, demonstrating scientifically that postnatal individuals – that’s you and me – contain a series of adult stem cells with attributes very similar, but not identical, to stem cells derived from embryos and fetuses. The similarities between these two groups of stem cells, i.e., embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, include an unlimited ability to increase in numbers (self-renewal) and their ability to form any cell type in the body, including the gametes.

John continued to outline the discrepancies between the two forms of stem cells, and went on to state that a person could even use their own stem cells harvested from their own body. This would be ideal since they would be an exact match for the patient right down to the very DNA, and eliminate any chance of rejection.

The differences noted between embryonic and adult stem cells are reflected in the programming of the cells. The former cells are pre-programmed to form all the tissues of an individual. This event occurs automatically after conception, with fusion of the reproductive gametes, the sperm and ovum. In contrast, adult stem cells are not preprogrammed to form anything; they wait for exterior or environmental signals to tell them what they should do. They’re in a “resting state,” in effect waiting for marching orders. And Dr. H demonstrates, in a powerful photographic presentation that my wife and I have seen, that his group can – and have – identified and utilized specific chemical agents that can tell adult stem cells to form a specific single cell type, which they will do. And then those cells can be injected into the blood stream, where they will seek and find the damaged place where they’re needed!

And, wonderfully, a patient’s own easily harvested adult stem cells can be used for his or her own treatment, and the implanted “self” stem cells will not be rejected! In the presentation Shirley and I saw, we observed these powerful cells go like homing pigeons to the most needed spots in the heart or brain or other vital organ of the donor – and repair the damage. It looked truly miraculous, and we believe it is.

Boone finished his commentary by once again discussing the moral issues surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. But there is an alternative as Boone learned. All the benefits of stem cell therapy, without any moral issues to hold science back. Boone even cites biblical passages in the end to point out that the bible, the foundation of the morals that drive many to oppose embryo use, may have been trying to tell us what all along what now seems to be an answer.

We’re not doctors or scientists and can only partially grasp all we’re seeing and hearing about. But to us, what these qualified and experienced scientists have discovered and developed not only makes the very expensive, long-range and extremely questionable research and use of created embryos unnecessary, it also offers help and probably miraculous treatment much more imminent and abundantly available, without the moral dilemma.

It reminds me of the time Moses balked at God’s command to confront Pharaoh with His command “Let My people go!” Moses felt so inadequate and asked, “Why should Pharaoh listen to what I say?” And God answered, “What is that in thy hand?”

Moses, befuddled, said, “My staff, my walking stick … Why?” God told him to throw it on the ground, and it became a serpent. Then God told him to pick it up, which Moses gingerly did, and it was a staff again. The point was the Creator of all mankind can do anything He wants, and we’re created in His image, with infinite capabilities. Instead of trying to “play God” and tamper with His proprietary creative processes, I feel we should recognize that He’s asking again, “What is that in your hand, in your blood? Use that, and I’ll work with you. Leave creation to me. I’ve got a lot more experience than you do!”

Is it worth it? Answers About Cord-Blood Storage

Does your baby’s umbilical cord hold a miracle?

Through brochures and advertisements purposefully positioned in doctor’s offices and pregnancy magazines, the aforementioned question is delivered to expectant parents every single day.

The ad states that your child can wait for science to develop cure-alls using the cord blood stem cells to treat a host of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and even spinal injuries. The fee is up front and usually about $2000 with a $125 fee every year thereafter. The company will freeze and store the stem cells extracted from your baby’s umbilical cord.

A simple idea. Pay for possibility.

Depending on whom you ask, these private cord-blood banks are either capitalizing on the buying power of nervous parents or selling an almost priceless form of medical insurance.

You have to understand what stem cells do before you can understand the marketing behind the miracle.

Stem cells, the blank slates of the cell world. They’re the cells that, as a human embryo becomes a baby, transform into the cells that form the brain, nerves and other parts of the body.

Some – known as adult stem cells – go partway toward making a particular organ but remain undeveloped. The body naturally uses these cells to repair damaged or diseased tissue in that organ.

Stem cell infusions from stored cord blood someday could encourage that same process as a medical treatment, or at least that is the idea cord-blood banking companies pitch.

Viable medical uses for stem cells already exist. Since 1988, cord-blood stem cells – usually from a sibling or unrelated donor – have been used to treat patients with rare blood disorders and cancers, such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia. Comparable to bone marrow transplants for cancer patients the stem cell procedure is less difficult due to the fact that a matching donor is easier to find. Stem cells are also less likely to be rejected and the treatment process is also less painful.

More than 600 Americans a year receive cord-blood infusions, frequently from unrelated families who donated their babies’ cord blood to public banks.

With the probability of a baby or a sibling (who has a 25 percent chance of being a viable match) becoming sick, an industry grew around parents’ banking their own babies’ cord blood as new treatments utilizing stem cells developed.

Stem cells have become a hot topic thanks to scientific advances and the political and religious debate surrounding discarded embryos. The stem cell craze of the 21st century has started.

Two years ago California voters approved Proposition 71 to fund stem cell research. Last year, President Bush approved a $79 million national databank for public stores of cord blood so patients can seek out matching donors.

Regulated by the FDA, the uproar launched the fledgling industry of private cord-blood banks.

“The marketplace changed. The value increased because stem cells were seen as a resource for emerging therapies,” said Stephen, 43, executive vice president of San Bruno, Calif.-based Cord Blood Registry, one of the largest private banks.

Some European countries have banned private storage of cord blood in favor of nonprofit banks for public use. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend private banking.

But banking in the U.S. is big business. More than $600 million have been paid by expectant parents to the three largest banks. They have stored the cord blood of more than 300,000 babies.

Competition has cord-blood storage companies suing each other over which has the best technology and which stores the most blood. Several of the two dozen banks have “feeder” Web sites that lead you to their business sites.

So far, it’s estimated that fewer than 100 withdrawals of privately stored cord blood have been made in the U.S., most for siblings with leukemia. But the near future may prove that this is one insurance policy that will not go to waste and may quite possibly be the most valuable insurance one can buy. This will prompt the rise of many more withdrawls for theraputic use and consequently many more people will choose to bank their blood.

“It’s peace of mind knowing it’s there just in case,” Stephen said.

Non-Controversial Stem Cell Research Thrives

Emily was born June 6, in Northwest Medical Center in Broward County, her parents and her doctor gave her a special gift. Among the earliest in the nation to do so, Emily’s parents, Matt and Rosa of Margate, Fla., banked stem cells collected from the placenta that surrounded their baby before her birth.

An option that has been available for several years, blood from her umbilical cord was collected and saved. The blood can be used to effectively treat several serious blood and immune system diseases.

Although stem cell debate has escalated in recent years, a non-controversial source could present potentially life-saving therapies. Scientists discovered certain cells from the placenta may be as versatile as human embryonic stem cells.

Placental-derived stem cell research is likely to accelerate since President Bush vetoed the recent bill that would have increased federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Placental stem cells are eligible for federal funding and in many ways more ideal due to the fact that they behave like embryonic stem cells, are plentiful, and do not involve the destruction of human embryos.

Recent accomplishments support the science behind placental stem cell research.

Scientists have been able to coax the placental stem cells to become bone, nerve, muscle, fat, pancreatic, or liver cells, which could make them useful in future treatment of such ailments as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

“I know that with the cord blood, they have been able to treat leukemias, lymphomas, and anemias,” said Rosa, “but with the placenta cells, they’ll be able to treat heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, neurological disorders and do bone regeneration, and probably things we don’t even know about yet.”

Rosa and her husband want extra protection for their first child Emily in case something goes wrong in the future. Thus, banking her cord blood and placental tissue was the obvious choice. Mary, who is a surgical technician at the hospital where her daughter was born, also stated that cells also may be helpful to other family members because of the close genetic match.

“Being in the medical field, I’ve had a chance to see all kinds of things I wouldn’t want my daughter to go through,” she said. “With the cord blood and the placenta, you’re covered for anything. Life insurance is one thing, but this is kind of like life assurance.”

Dr. Bruce, the ob-gyn who delivered Emily by C-section and extracted the placental tissue and umbilical cord blood, said stem cells from cord blood have already saved many lives, and the placental cells offer promise for the future.

Mother to Bush – Son is Symptom Free Due to Stem Cell Treatment

Mary and her family, in the midst of another two dozen families, met with President George Bush before he signed two bills and vetoed another connected to stem cell research.

During a 15 second photo op, Mary tried to tell the story of her 3-year-old son. Ryan who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, she told the president, was the first child in the nation to be injected with stem cells from her own umbilical cord blood.

Her son received the infusion and immediately showed significant signs of improvement. Since October, the Batavia mother has tried to spread the story of her son to the masses, and now she had the chance to tell President Bush.

“I said, ‘My son is symptom-free now,’ and he just was floored. He just was speechless,” Mary said. “His mouth went open and he said, ‘What? Really?'”

Bush was quite interested in what Mary had to say, judging by the way he tried to follow her before he was pulled back by his staff, Mary stated.

A year prior to their child’s birth, Mary and her husband Steve decided to bank her cord blood and save Ryan’s umbilical cord after learning the significance of stem cells. One of Mary’s family members had died of leukemia because they were unable to find a compatible match of bone marrow, another source of stem cells.

Stem cells derived from cord blood (a rich source for stem cells), have revealed that they can differentiate into other varieties of cells in the body. Cord blood, used for many years as a cancer treatment was used in unique circumstances. Ryan’s case was the first where the stem cells were being used to treat a neurological disorder such as cerebral palsy.

Since there is no way to track if the stem cells are in fact the cause of health improvements, physicians and researchers are tentative to endorse the procedure says Mary. She finally went to an agreeing physician at Duke University in North Carolina after months of probing and rejection for the treatment from other clinics and doctors.

“Now he talks fine, he has no feeding issues, he has all his mobility back. There’s no need for occupational or speech therapy — he’s signed up for swim class,” she said.

Ryan no longer has the disorder according to evaluations by the Easter Seals and neurologists, Mary said.

“I’m grateful every single day. He isn’t even aware of what he was missing and what he’s gotten back. It’s so cool he’s got all these options and abilities in life now,” his mother said.

Anxious to get the word out, she has called legislators and “raised some eyebrows,” landing her an invitation to speak at a press conference about stem cell research in Washington, D.C., last month. Mary met with several senators, and Ryan’s story was brought up on the Senate floor by both Senators Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

In her pursuit to accomplish her goal of informing families around the nation about the magnitude of cord blood, she looked at her meeting with the president as the first step in her journey.

“For my family, they were awestruck. For me, it was, ‘This is my chance, this is my 15 seconds to get the message out for these families and these kids,'” she said. “I was on a mission.”

Upon returning Batavia, Mary plans to work on launching her foundation — www.neurocordblood.org — which will supply information about cord blood banking.

“The abilities you can have with this are just astounding,” she said. “It’s going to help so many kids.”

Safety of Spinal Cord Stem Cell Transplant Established

According to University of California – Irvine researchers, transplanting stem cells is not harmful and can serve as a therapeutic approach for the treatment of severe spinal cord injury.

The study conducted by Hans a UCI neurobiologist, and his colleagues at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center confirms previous findings by Hans’ lab; that replacing a cell type lost after injury improves the result after spinal cord injury in rodents. Identical data published by four other laboratories in the world show that rats with either mild or severe spinal cord injuries that were transplanted with using stem cells as a treatment suffered no visible injury or ill effects as a result of the treatment itself.

In 2005, Hans’ lab was the first to persuade stem cells to become highly pure specialized cells known as oligodendrocytes. The cells are imperative for the maintenance of electrical conduction in the central nervous system and also serve as the raw materials of myelin which acts as an insulation for nerve fibers. Paralysis can result when myelin is lost through disease or injury.

The current study, just like the original, exhibited that rats suffering from severe spinal cord injury injected with oligodendrocytes seven days after the injury, had the cells migrate to the proper sites within the spinal cord and wrap around damaged neurons, forming new myelin tissue.

In comparison, rats that were only slightly impaired showed no change in walking ability after transplantation or an increase or decrease in myelin generation. Hans says this is due to the fact that no loss of myelin occurred. Thus, any treatment targeted at regenerating myelin would have no effect because the animals were able to recover motor functions on their own, due to the minor nature of the injuries. It is important to note that although the treatment did was not able to provide ay benefit, it also did not cause any harm. Scientists decided to examine further and found no signs of damage to the tissue surrounding the spinal cord, thus demonstrating that no damage had occurred due to transplantation in the animals.

“Establishing the safety of implanted stem cells is crucial before we can move forward with testing these treatments in clinical trials,” said Hans an associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology and co-director of UCI’s Stem Cell Research Center. “We must always remember that a human clinical trial is an experiment and, going into it, we need to assure ourselves as best as we can that the treatment will not cause harm. This study is an important step in that direction.”

Hans is working with Geron Corp. to bring this treatment for acute spinal cord injury into Phase I clinical trials within the next year.

“Our biggest safety concern was that in the case of a severe injury, any harm the stem cell-derived treatment could cause would be masked by the injury itself,” Hans said. “In this study, we can see in animals that are only slightly injured that the transplantation does not cause visible harm and the injury is not hiding any damage the cells may have caused to the spinal cord or the surrounding tissue.”

UCI is a premier center for stem cell research in California. The university announced last week that it had received a $10 million gift from Bill and Sue in support of stem cell research, including matching funds to construct an $80 million Stem Cell Research Center facility.

Girl Flies to China for Stem Cell Treatment

Sacha, a five-year-old girl afflicted with the rare Batten Disease, is to have pioneering stem cell surgery in Shenyang, northern China. The procedure will consist of weekly spinal column injections, each comprised of 10 million stem cells, for the duration of one month.

Taken from umbilical cords with the permission of new mothers, blood stem cells will be injected into Sacha’s spinal column and will move through the blood stream to the brain, where it is hoped they will start to fix the damage caused by Batten Disease.

The illness has left her incapable of walking or talking without assistance and Sacha’s family is hoping the experimental treatment reverses the effects of the disease which attacks the central nervous system.

Batten disease has no cure and affects one in every 30,000 children that are bon in the UK. Diagnosed last July, Sacha is not expected to live past the age of 12 without treatment.

Sacha’s mother Annette, while researching the disease online, made contact with a Swedish woman whose son had undergone the procedure in China.

She visited her earlier this month and was encouraged by the improvement the boy had made.

“This is the first time I have heard of a child showing signs of improvement anywhere in the world,” said Annette, 37. “They are not huge changes but all his nurses and his mother have noticed a definite improvement which is very exciting and encouraging.”

On August 12, Annete will fly out with Sacha for the treatment, returning to the UK a fortnight later when Sacha’s father, Neil, arrives.

More trips to China may be necessary for Sacha if the initial treatment proves successful.

Other alternatives included brain surgery in America but Sacha was unable to have the operation after her severity of her seizures increased.

Her stomach was fitted with a tube to allow her mother to give her fluids and medicine as her condition progressively became worse.

Earlier this year Sacha was recognized for her courage in The Argus Achievement Awards.

“Sacha is still taking food orally but only just. Her swallowing mechanism is going and we have to puree everything,” said Annette, “I am feeling really positive about the treatment. I don’t feel nervous at the moment but I might do on the plane over there.”

“Sacha isn’t going to have brain surgery which I was worried about and this isn’t as invasive,” added Sacha’s mother, “I’m looking forward to the future whereas before I just didn’t think we had any hope.”

Hove businessman Chris funded the treatment by donating £10,000 to Sacha’s family after reading of her illness in The Argus.

Annette said: “We are so grateful to Chris. Without him none of this would be possible.”

Human Hair Follicles Source for Multipotent Stem Cells

Study co-authors are Hong Yu, Suresh M. Kumar, and Geza Acs, all from Penn; and Dong Fang, Ling Li, Thiennga K. Nguyen, and Meenhard Herlyn, all from the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, July 12, 2006

New sources of adult stem cells appear to have the potential to differentiate into several cell types. Isolated by researchers at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, the cells could one day provide the tissue required by individuals for treating a multitude of disorders. However, the approach to growing the cells must be put into overdrive to combat diseases such as Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, and peripheral nerve disease.

“We are very excited about this new source of adult stem cells that has the potential for a variety of applications,” says senior author Xiaowei, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pathology. “A number of reports have pointed to the fact that adult stem cells may be more flexible in what they become than previously thought, so we decided to look in the hair follicle bulge, a niche for these cells.” Xiaowei and colleagues report their findings in the latest issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

The researchers used an environment equal to that in human embryonic stem cell culturing. After isolating the cells from hair follicles, which were already a well known source of adult stem cells, researchers were able to grow a new type of multipotent adult stem cell from the scalp tissue provided by the National Institute of Health’s Cooperative Human Tissue Network.

Investigators gave the name “hair spheres” to the multipotent stem cells which grow in masses. They were able to separate the stem cells into multiple lineages after growing the “raw” cells from hair spheres using different varieties of growth factors. The lineages included nerve cells, melanocytes, and smooth muscle cells.

“Although we are just at the start of this research, our findings suggest that human hair follicles may provide an accessible, individualized source of stem cells,” says Xiaowei. The researchers are now working on inducing other cell types from the hair sphere cells and testing the cells in animal models.

Study co-authors are Hong, Suresh, and Geza, all from Penn; and Dong, Ling, Thiennga, and Meenhard, all from the Wistar Institute, Philadelphia.