(by Susan Jones, CNSNews.com) – As the Senate focuses on research involving embryonic stem cells, there’s another success to report in the field of adult stem cell therapy, which does not depend on embryo destruction.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a study on Tuesday showing that 14 out of 15 juvenile diabetes patients showed significant improvement following therapy involving adult stem cells.
Rep. Dave Weldon, M.D. (R-Fla.) said the study is significant because it marks the first attempt at using stem cells of any kind to reverse the effects of Type I (juvenile) diabetes in humans.
Although the study is preliminary, it’s also very promising, Weldon said. He noted that 14 of the patients remain insulin-free, and one has gone 34 months without insulin injections.
“It’s very important that the public be told what this is: an adult
stem cell success, not the much-touted embryo stem cell research,” Weldon said in a news release.
“The beauty of the treatment protocol used here is that the patient’s own bone marrow stem cells were used, guaranteeing a perfect match. There was no controversial destruction of human embryos. Embryo stem cells form tumors and have never been shown to be safe for use in humans,” Weldon added.
He also noted that the research was done by Americans working overseas. (The study was conducted in Brazil with input from several U.S. clinical researchers.) Weldon said that’s because the American biomedical research community has placed an “irrational reliance on embryo stem cell research above all others.”
Said Weldon, “Adult stem cell science in America is being crowded out and in some cases ignored. This bias is now denying American patients access to therapies that are much more promising. We need to focus on human treatments for today, not those with false hope for tomorrow.”
Type I (juvenile) diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s own immune cells attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
In treating the 15 patients, researchers used the patients’ own bone marrow stem cells — the same procedure has been used successfully to treat other autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohns Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.
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1. a) What publication released a study on Tuesday regarding juvenile diabetes?
b) What did the study show? Be specific.
2. a) Why is the study significant, according to Congressman Dave Weldon (R-Fla.)?
b) What credentials does Rep. Weldon have that enable him to speak as an authority, not just a politician?
(Visit Rep. Weldon’s website at house.gov.)
3. What does Rep. Weldon say is important for the public to understand about this study?
4. a) Why did the American researchers do the study in Brazil?
b) Re-read para. #8. Do you agree with Rep. Weldon’s recommendation that “we need to focus on human treatments for today, not those with false hope for tomorrow”? Explain your answer.
5. What other autoimmune diseases have been successfully treated with adult stem cells?
Adult Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells:
Stem cells are universal cells that have the ability to develop into specialized types of tissues that can then be used throughout the body to treat diseases or injuries. Stem Cell Research is a topic embroiled in much controversy. Scientists are hopeful that one day stem cells will be used to grow new organs such as kidneys or spinal cords as well as different types of tissues such as nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. The controversy sparked by the use of stem cells and research in this area comes from the fact that…these cells are taken from embryos that are just days old. As a result of this, the embryo, which is a developing human life, is destroyed. Many people feel it is immoral and unethical to destroy embryos for the sake of science. To further the debate, while these cells are easily cultured, replicate quickly, and have a relatively long life, embryonic stem cells have not yet been successfully used to provide any kind of therapy for humans and pose risks such as tumor growth and rejection by the body.
On the other side of the issue is the use of adult stem cells for research. Adult stem cells are available from a variety of sources including blood from the umbilical cord, the placenta, bone marrow, and even human fat. ….they may have some limitations in the type of tissues they are able to form. For many years, adult stem cells have been used to provide a number of different therapies to people with a relatively high rate of success. Recent research has shown that adult stem cells taken from one area of the body are able to regenerate and form tissues of a different kind. In addition to the proven therapies and research, the use of adult stem cells from a patient’s own body decreases the risk of rejection because the cells are not seen as foreign invaders.
All in all, many scientists believe that the use of adult stem cells should be the primary focus of stem cell research based on past success, lower chances of patient rejection, and the idea that adult stem cell research does not spark the moral, ethical, and political debate seen so frequently when the use of embryonic stem cells is considered. (from pbs.org, a Newshour Extra report on the Stem Cell Research Debate by Lisa Prososki)
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: Read the excerpt below from Princeton University Professor Robert P. George. What does Professor George say is the real reason for the push for the use of embryonic stem cells? What do you think of Professor George’s explanation?
In his article “Fetal Attraction–What the Stem Cell Scientists Really Want,” Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University argues that much is at stake in the stem-cell debate. Professor George explains: Up to now, embryonic stem cell advocates have claimed that they are only interested in stem cells harvested from embryos at the blastocyst (or five-to six-day) stage. They have denied any intention of implanting embryos either in the uterus of a volunteer or in an artificial womb in order to harvest cells, tissues, or organs at more advanced stages of embryonic development or in the fetal stage. Advocates are well aware that most Americans, including those who are prepared to countenance the destruction of very early embryos, are not ready to approve the macabre practice of “fetus farming.” However, based on the literature I have read and the evasive answers given by spokesmen for the biotechnology industry at meetings of the President’s Council on Bioethics, I fear that the long-term goal is indeed to create an industry in harvesting late embryonic and fetal body parts for use in regenerative medicine and organ transplantation.
Why? This would explain why some advocates of embryonic stem cell research are not cheering the news about alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells. If their real goal is fetus farming, then the cells produced by alternative methods will not serve their purposes.
Why would biomedical scientists be interested in fetus farming? Researchers know that stem cells derived from blastocyst-stage embryos are currently of no therapeutic value and may never actually be used in the treatment of diseases. (In a candid admission, South Korean cloning expert Curie Ahn recently said that developing therapies may take “three to five decades.”)
In fact, there is not a single embryonic stem cell therapy even in clinical trials. (By contrast, adult and umbilical cord stem cells are already being used in the treatment of 65 diseases.) All informed commentators know that embryonic stem cells cannot be used in therapies because of their tendency to generate dangerous tumors. However, recent studies show that the problem of tumor formation does not exist in cells taken from cows, mice, and other mammals when embryos have been implanted and extracted after several weeks or months of development (i.e. have been gestated to the late embryonic or fetal stage). This means that the real therapeutic potential lies precisely in the practice of fetus farming. Because the developmental process stabilizes cells (which is why we are not all masses of tumors), it is likely true that stem cells, tissues, and organs harvested from human beings at, say, 16 or 18 weeks or later could be used in the treatment of diseases. Published Oct. 3, 2005 at weeklystandard.com.