Entries in Stem Cell (11)


New Procedure Using Stem Cells Eliminates Need for Anti-Rejection Drugs in Transplants

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Lindsay Porter knew she would eventually need a kidney transplant. She was 19 years old when her mother died from polycystic kidney disease -- a genetic condition that Porter had 50/50 odds of inheriting, and did.

"It didn't really affect me much until my early 30s," said Porter, an actress and mother living in Chicago. "And as I got into my 40s, my kidneys started getting very big with multiple cysts. They were huge."

In May 2010, doctors removed Porter's overgrown and failing kidneys. Two months later, a friend gave her one of his. But it was no ordinary transplant. Along with the fist-size organ, doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago transplanted bone marrow stem cells -- an experimental procedure they hoped would eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs.

"These drugs are currently an absolute necessity, but they have a downside," said Dr. Joseph Leventhal, Porter's transplant surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Anti-rejection drugs suppress the immune system, preventing it from attacking the donated organ like an infection. But suppressing the immune system makes the body vulnerable to infections and even cancer. And the drugs, which carry toxic side effects, can't ward off rejection forever. "Many individuals will still lose their transplants over time due to chronic rejection," said Leventhal.

To coax Porter's body into recognizing the new kidney as her own, Leventhal and colleagues wiped out part of her immune system and replaced it with the donor's. It took four days of chemotherapy, whole-body irradiation and a bone marrow transplant -- no walk in the park, according to Porter. But over time, the donor bone marrow stem cells gave rise to immune cells that accepted the kidney as if it was Porter's own -- a process called induced immune tolerance.

"At first I was taking 24 pills a day," said Porter, describing the "cocktail" of anti-rejection drugs needed to fend off an attack on her new kidney while the bone marrow stem cells were setting up shop. "And you really can't miss a dose. I had to set my cell phone alarm for every 12 hours every single day to remind me."

After six months, Porter started weaning herself off the drugs. And after a year, she no longer needed them at all.

"My life is totally transformed," she said. "It's like I never even had kidney disease, never even had the transplant. It's so easy to feel normal and forget it even happened."

Porter is one of eight patients who participated in the kidney transplant trial run jointly by Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Louisville. Five of the patients, including Porter, now have chimeric immune systems consisting of their own immune cells and immune cells from their donor. They no longer need any anti-rejection drugs. Two patients had "transient chimerism," meaning it didn't last, but take half the anti-rejection drugs they would have needed without the stem cell transplant. One patient had complications from the transplant.

The results of the trial, which is ongoing, were published on Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine journal.

Dr. Suzanne Ildstad, director of the Institute of Cellular Therapeutics at the University of Louisville, pioneered the approach and led the trial with Leventhal.

"It really makes all work we've done really worthwhile," she said. "Being a transplant recipient isn't easy. They have to take up to 25 pills a day, keep track of them, suffer the consequences of them. There's really been no other way. ... These results are really gratifying."

Eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs would mean healthier transplant recipients and longer-lasting organs.

"We would love for the first transplant a person gets to be the only transplant they need," said Leventhal, adding that many transplant recipients need a second transplant in their lifetime because of chronic rejection. "We hope that tolerance will be a pathway toward keeping that transplant for as long as they live."

This year, Leventhal and Ildstad will test the approach in patients who have already received a kidney transplant from a living donor. They hope transplanting bone marrow stem cells from the same donor even years after the organ transplant will reduce the need for anti-rejection drugs. They also plan to broaden the study to include other types of transplants.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves Product for Treating Blood-Forming Disorders

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SILVER SPRING, Md.) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an umbilical cord blood product for use in treating patients who require hematopoietic stem cell transplant procedures, according to a report in Medpage Today.

FDA officials say the product "Hemacord" is the first of its kind, and will be used to treat patients with disorders affecting the blood-forming system.

"The use of cord blood hematopoietic progenitor cell therapy offers potentially life-saving treatment options for patients with these types of disorders," Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

The use of Hemacord, manufactured by the New York Blood Center, should be monitored closely, according to the FDA. Risks associated with the product include graft-versus-host disease, engraftment syndrome, graft failure, and infusion reactions.

FDA officials say Hemacord will be used in treating patients suffering from blood cancer and inherited metabolic and immune system disorders.

Copyrihgt 2011 ABC News Radio


Peyton Manning’s Stem-Cell Hail Mary

Peyton Manning stands on the sidelines during a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers, August 26, 2011. Joe Robbins/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has become the newest face of stem-cell therapy in a treatment decision that has elicited mixed opinions from top doctors in the field.

Buzz about Manning’s decision to fly to Europe to take advantage of an FDA-unapproved stem-cell treatment for his neck exploded this weekend with a report on Fox’s NFL pregame show.

The bulging disk in Manning’s neck has thus far defied three surgical repair attempts and months of physical therapy, and the 35-year-old QB is expected to be out of the game for two to three months, and possibly more.

Manning has already missed his team’s first two games.

He has not kept his disappointment at his slow recovery a secret.

“To say I am disappointed in not being able to play is an understatement,” Manning said in a statement released by his team earlier this month. “I simply am not healthy enough to play, and I am doing everything I can to get my health back.”

According to a report in the New York Daily News, the stem-cell treatment did not work, resulting in the team subsequently deeming the surgery “uneventful.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stem Cell Research: Where Is it Happening?

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The National Institutes of Health offers the following list of Universities and Institutions at which stem cell research is currently underway:

Harvard Stem Cell Institute: Supports research into all aspects of stem cell biology, with special emphasis on those areas with the greatest potential for improving human health.

McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine: Established for University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center scientists and clinical faculty working to develop tissue engineering, cellular therapies, biosurgery, and artificial and biohybrid organ devices.

National Human Neural Stem Cell Resource: Provides neural stem cells harvested from the post-natal, post-mortem, human brain to the research community for stem cell research.

New York Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM): Supports basic, applied, translational or other research and development activities that will advance scientific discoveries in fields related to stem cell biology.

Pittsburgh Development Center of Magee-Womens Research Institute: Explores the molecular biology of cell function, including the potential of stem cells for treating human disease.

Sloan-Kettering Institute: Part of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the world's oldest and largest private institution devoted to patient care, education, and research into cancer.

Stanford University School of Medicine/Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine: Explains Stanford's involvement and perspective on stem cell issues, with links to related sites.

Texas Heart Institute Stem Cell Center: Dedicated to the study of adult stem cells and their role in treating cardiovascular disease, including clinical trials (in human patients), as well as many preclinical studies (in the laboratory) using stem cells.

Tulane University Center for Gene Therapy: Prepares and distributes well-characterized marrow stromal cells (MSCs) derived from adult human and rodent bone marrow using standardized protocols.

University of California, San Francisco/Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program: Highlights of UCSF human embryonic stem cell research.

University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine's Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute: ISCI's goal is to spearhead cell based therapies for a host of untreatable diseases. Its focus includes research in basic cell biology, hematology, oncology, cardiology, dermatology, diabetes and endocrinology, neurology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, and ethics and science policy.

University of Minnesota: Stem Cell Institute: Works to enhance understanding of stem cells' potential to improve human and animal health.

University of Wisconsin/Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Scientists at UW-Madison were the first to successfully isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells.

Source: National Institutes of Health at

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Research Shows Stem Cells Can Replace Themselves

Science Photo Library / Getty Im(BALTIMORE) -- Nervous system stem cells can replace themselves and even amplify, according to a study conducted by a Johns Hopkins team.

The research, conducted on adult mice, shows that a lone brain cell can generate two new functional brain stem cells.

“If we can somehow cash in on this newly discovered property of stem cells in the brain, and find ways to intervene so they divide more, then we might actually increase their numbers instead of losing them over time, which is what normally happens, perhaps due to aging or diseases,” said Hongjun Song, Ph.D., director of the Stem Cell Program in the Institute for Cell Engineering, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Spinal Cord Injury Victim First to Undergo Embryonic Stem-Cell Therapy

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Dr. Donald Leslie, medical director at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, has high hopes.

"We want to cure paralysis," he said. "We want to stop spinal cord injury. How incredible would that be?"

Leslie's mission has begun with T.J. Atchinson, the first step in research that he believes could lead to many steps for those who were told they would never walk again. Atchinson, 21, was the first human with a spinal cord injury to undergo embryonic stem-cell therapy.

The athletic college student's life took a hard turn in September when he was home from the University of Alabama visiting his family in Chatom and lost control of his car. Even before he was cut loose from the vehicle, he knew something was wrong.

"I realized I couldn't feel from about here down," nursing student Atchinson said, pointing to his waist. "When I got to the hospital, they said I would never walk again."

The accident took place on the birthday of Christopher Reeves, the actor who had fought hard for embryonic stem-cell therapy but never lived to receive it. Atchinson was still accepting the news about his situation when doctors told him he'd be a great candidate for the therapy.

Stem cells are the building blocks of life, and they've been used in the laboratory to repair the broken spinal cords of small animals, who walked again. Atchinson agreed to become test case No. 1.

Doctors opened his wound, while researchers used a remote control to guide the needle. They injected his spinal cord with a small dose of 2 million cells that, they hope, will transform into new nerve cells, attach to muscles and refire Atchinson's central nervous system.

Although Atchinson's role was only to prove the procedure is safe, he believes it's already working. "I can feel that," Atchinson said, pulling the hair on his legs.

After six months of the therapy, he said, he's able to sense weight when he places heavy items on his lap. It's barely there, Atchinson said, but he can sense something. Rubbing his leg, Atchinson said, "I can feel that, there's something there."

His doctors are cautiously optimistic.

"It's very hard to measure sensation," Dr. Leslie said. "But if he tells me he couldn't feel something before, and he can now, I got to believe him. And I want this for him more than you know."

Doctors will continue to measure Atchinson's strength and test his nerves and muscles. He returns to school in the fall, moving on with his life but still holding out hope that his injury is healing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lab-Grown Meat: Food of the Future?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- Next time you fire up the grill for a backyard barbecue, think about this: at some point in the future, those steaks sizzling over the flames might not come from livestock, but a lab.

For some scientists, so-called "test-tube" meat has been the dream of decades. And fueled by concerns about the consequences of meat consumption for our health, the environment and animal welfare, the movement is gaining momentum.

At universities in the U.S. and Europe, researchers are working to develop lab-grown meat that looks and tastes like the real deal.  And one leading bioengineer said he's even drawing up a business plan for a start-up that would bring synthetic meat to market.

"I think the future of human food, is food that becomes not just a way to survive, but also a way to become better," said Dr. Vladimir Mironov, an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.  "Most people try to imitate natural meat -- it must be the same taste, texture, structure.  What I want to say is that we can create better than nature -- not just food, but a 'nutraceutical.'"

Do you like your steak extra fatty or wish that it could boost your brain power? Mironov said that with a little bit of bioengineering those benefits can be baked into a final product.

For the past decade, Mironov has been working to develop lab-grown meat from stem cells bathed in a nutrient-rich bioreactor mixture.  With the help of Nicholas Genovese, a research associate funded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), he's experimented with ways to engineer nutrition and taste into cultured meat.  Now, he's working up plans to turn his research into a diner's reality.

To make cultured, or in vitro, meat, scientists take the cells from an animal and then let them grow in a plant-based mixture of nutrients.  As the cells develop, they attach to a natural scaffold (or biodegradable foundation) to create the muscle tissue that comprises meat -- all without the raising and slaughtering of animals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Stem Cells: Alternative to Knee Replacement?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Last year, Patricia Beals was told she'd need a double knee replacement to repair her severely arthritic knees or she'd probably spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

Hoping to avoid surgery, Beals, 72, opted instead for an experimental treatment that involved harvesting bone marrow stem cells from her hip, concentrating the cells in a centrifuge and injecting them back into her damaged joints.

"Almost from the moment I got up from the table, I was able to throw away my cane," Beals says. "Now I'm biking and hiking like a 30-year-old."

A handful of doctors around the country are administering treatments like the one Beals received to stop or even reverse the ravages of osteoarthritis. Stem cells are the only cells in the body able to morph into other types of specialized cells. When the patient's own stem cells are injected into a damaged joint, they appear to transform into chondrocytes, the cells that go on to produce fresh cartilage. They also seem to amplify the body's own natural repair efforts by accelerating healing, reducing inflammation, and preventing scarring and loss of function.

Christopher J. Centeno, M.D., the rehab medicine specialist who performed Beals' procedure, says the results he sees from stem cell therapy are remarkable. Of the more-than-200 patients his Bloomfield, Colo., clinic treated over a two-year period, he says, "two thirds of them reported greater than 50 percent relief and about 40 percent reported more than 75 percent relief one to two years afterward."

According to Centeno, knees respond better to the treatment than hips. Only eight percent of his knee patients opted for a total knee replacement two years after receiving a stem cell injection. The complete results from his clinical observations will be published in a major orthopedic journal later this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Lifts Federal Stem Cell Ban

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a victory for the Obama administration, a federal appeals court has set aside a lower-court ruling that would have blocked the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

A divided three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that the plaintiffs in the case, who argued that NIH's guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research violate federal law, were not likely to succeed in their lawsuit.

The court found that the law--the Dickey-Wicker Amendment enacted in 1996--is "ambiguous" and that the NIH has "reasonably concluded" that while the law bans federal funding for the destructive act of deriving cells from an embryo "it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an hESC will be used."

The Obama administration contends that no embryos are actually destroyed with federal funds and that the monies only pay for research conducted under strict ethical guidelines on derived stem cells.

"Today's ruling is a victory for our scientists and patients around the world who stand to benefit from the groundbreaking medical research they're pursuing," said Nick Papas, a spokesman for the White House.

The suit was brought by Drs. James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, scientists who use only adult stem cells in their research and who say that the funding for hESC would compete with funding necessary to complete their research. Last August, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth stunned the medical community when he issued a preliminary injunction against the funding, ruling it violated Dickey-Wicker.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cancer Therapy Developers Awarded $1.2 Million Federal Grant for Stem Cell Research

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(REDWOOD CITY, Calif.) -- OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, a therapeutics developer that targets cancer stem cells, was awarded a grant on Tuesday totaling $1.2 million to support five of its programs under the government's Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project (QTDP).

The QTDP was created by Congress in support of "innovation and job creation by biotech companies."  Grant winners are chosen primarily by the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, depending on qualifying criteria.

Eligibility hinges on the project's ability to "result in new therapies to treat areas of unmet medical need; prevent, detect or treat chronic or acute disease and conditions; reduce long-term health care costs; or significantly advance the goal of curing cancer within a 30-year period."

OncoMed's strategy targets cancer stem cell proteins and has the potential to be developed for use against a range of tumor types.

"We are pleased to see OncoMed recognized by the award of these QTDP Program grants, which value the scope of our research and emerging pipeline of anti-cancer stem cell therapeutics programs," said Paul Hastings, president and CEO of OncoMed Pharmaceuticals.  "We look forward to applying these funds to development candidates arising from our insights into multiple cancer stem cell pathways and cancer biology."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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