Stem cells back from outer space may solve mysterious illnesses of astronauts

Astronauts have a much higher incidence of infections in comparison to humans living under normal gravity. Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford from the molecular biology department of University of California San Francisco is trying to figure out what may cause this difference. As part of her experiments she has been studying the stem cells that give rise to blood and immune system cells, called hematopoietic stem cells. Today, Dr. Hughes-Fulford is expecting to receive 16 mice that were flown on the Space Shuttle Discovery for two weeks. Various aspects of the stem cells and the immune system will be studied.

The importance of understanding zero-gravity associated immune deficiency comes from the aim of establishing long-term space missions to places like mars, in which the current immune deficiencies observed may take a larger toll on the astronauts. Dr. Hughes-Fulford stated that "many of the conditions found in astronauts are similar to muscular-skeletal diseases in
paralyzed or comatose patients on Earth" she continued to state that she has seen young astronauts come down with shingles, which commonly occur in people past the age of 60.

Over the years I’ve been able to do several experiments on the shuttle, Hughes-Fulford said. We’ve found that the immune system is
suppressed when it doesn’t have gravity.

In the previous George W. Bush administration, after the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, the work on stem cells and space travel lost funding. Hughes-Fulford, Almeida, and other U.S. scientists were able to get access to space-bound missions only because of personal and institutional partnerships, however NIH funding was not permitted despite the adult stem cell nature of the experiments. Hughes-Fulford hopes the Obama administration will make it easier to conduct such spaceflight experiments. This time, Dr. Hughes-Fulford was able to send 16 mice in climate-controlled containers along with Discovery. Her team will analyze how mouse white blood cells respond to a simulated infection during flight and upon return, and compare that with how white blood cells behave in 16 Earthbound mice.

Her results from previous flight experiments are pretty compelling, said Daniel Bikle, professor of medicine and dermatology at UC San Francisco. He continued If there’s any failure of these stem cells to differentiate into normal tissues, that could cause problems, he said. If we ever do get around to sending somebody to Mars and somebody gets pregnant, if stem cells fail to differentiate you wouldn’t get a normal baby.

2012-04-19T17:58:49+00:00April 19th, 2012|News|

Legendary Texas Football Coach and Stem Cell Recipient Sam Harrell Returns to Coaching

Sam Harrell Stem Cell Patient for MS

Coach Sam Harrell at Ennis High School

In 2010, the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis forced Sam Harrell to retire from his position as Head Football Coach at Ennis High School. But after receiving 3 courses of stem cell therapy at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama, Sam is returing to the gridiron once again.

Brownwood Lion Head Coach, Bob Shipley announced that Harrell will be joining the team as quarterback coach.

Sam coached all three of his sons at Ennis High School, most notably his son Graham Harrell. Graham was a standout quarterback at Texas Tech and now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

During his career at Ennis, Harrell pioneered the spread offense that led the team to three Texas state championships.

“I told the kids this morning,” said Coach Shipley when asked about how he addressed the team, “And I didn’t have to explain who Sam Harrell was, they knew. And they just erupted in applause and they were just looking at each other with their jaws dropped open, like they couldn’t believe that Coach Harrell was going to come and be apart of our staff.”

“Sam just really liked the thought of coming and not being the head coach and not being the offensive coordinator, but just coaching the quarterbacks, which is really what his passion is.”

The Stem Cell Institute was founded in 2005 by Neil Riordan PhD and has treated over 1,500 patients to-date. Find out more about stem cell therapy for MS at

2012-04-19T17:58:26+00:00April 19th, 2012|Multiple Sclerosis, News, Stem Cell Research|