By Thaddeus M. Baklinski
April 16, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A study carried out in Brazil and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, on the use of adult stems cells to treat diabetes, has found that most of the patients in the study group were partially or wholly healed of the disease after receiving injections of stem cells from their own bone marrow.
The procedure, called autologous nonmyeloablative hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), was carried out on 15 patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM). The report on the study stated that most of the patients no longer needed insulin injections after the treatment and were still "insulin free with normal levels of glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) during a mean 18.8-month follow-up"
"After a mean follow-up of 29.8 months … the majority of patients achieved insulin independence with good glycemic control."
However, the astonishingly positive results of the use of adult stem cells to treat diabetes have received very little mainstream media coverage, a fact that has been strongly criticized by conservative bioethicist Wesley Smith.
"Had this been an embryonic stem cell success, the story would have reaped huge headlines and an angry lead editorial decrying President Bush for his stem cell funding policy," said Smith.
"You see, successful human treatments don’t count as news if they are from adult stem cells. That doesn’t fit the media narrative that ESCR [embryonic stem cell research] is the future. That is why a prospective Geron ESC human trial that might or might not work, got more coverage than these stories of an actual major success did put together," said Smith.
Smith observed that Dr. Richard K. Burt of Northwestern University’s medical school and one of the study’s researchers, explained why the success happened in Brazil instead of the USA, saying, "The research was done in Brazil because doctors in the United States were not interested in the approach."
In another recent report of the successful use of adult stem cells, Korean doctors have re-grown a patient’s jawbone using his own adult stem cells.
An 18-year-old Korean boy, who had one side of his jawbone and most of his teeth removed due to a tumor, had stem cells taken from his bone marrow, which were then "multiplied and specialized to form an osteoblast which is a bone-forming cell."
"It may sound complicated but the treatment itself is quite simple," one of the doctors involved told Arirang Korean News. "A bone-forming cell is injected into the impaired part and after six months to one year new bone material grows in to fill the gap."
"The advantage of this treatment is that it is very simple, because it is an injection. And also other parts of the patient’s body are not involved in the treatment. So the patients, who are treated using their own adult stem cells, will not suffer from damage to other parts of their body."
The results of the trial were published in the British medical journal BMC Medicine and were also presented at the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
In relates news, the pro-life position in the debate over the immorality and the practical challenges of using human embryonic stem cells in medical research received an unexpected boost during a recent appearance by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the director of the cardiovascular institute at Columbia University, on the "Oprah" television program.
"The stem cell debate is dead, and I’ll tell you why," he told Oprah and guest Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease and is an outspoken advocate of embryonic stem cell research, and a nationwide audience.
"The problem with embryonic stem cells is that embryonic stem cells come from embryos - like all of us were made from embryos - and those cells can become any cell in the body," Oz said. "But it’s very hard to control them, and so they can become cancer."
Referring to a form of adult stem cell research involving taking a person’s own skin cells and reprogramming them into embryonic-like stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cell research (iPS), Oz explained to Fox, "Here’s what the deal is. I can take a little bit of your skin, take those cells, get them to go back in time so they’re like they were when you were first made, and then they will start to make that dopamine, and I think those cells, because they won’t be as prone to cancer - and because they’re your genes - will be the ones that are ultimately used to cure Parkinson’s."
Reinforcing Dr. Oz’s statement is a report by Dr. Bernadine Healy in US News & World Report, where she comments on President Obama’s campaign promise to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
"Several events reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes, are obsolete. The most sobering: a report from Israel published in PLoS Medicine in late February that shows embryonic stem cells injected into patients can cause disabling if not deadly tumors," Dr. Healy wrote.
"The report describes a young boy with a fatal neuromuscular disease called ataxia telangiectasia, who was treated with embryonic stem cells. Within four years, he developed headaches and was found to have multiple tumors in his brain and spinal cord that genetically matched the female embryos used in his therapy."
The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics lists 73 diseases which have been successfully treated using adult stem cell therapies (see: http://www.stemcellresearch.org/facts/treatments.htm).
This list has been validated by the American Medical Association, which published a paper demonstrating the therapeutic benefits of adult stem cells, and states that, "Adult stem cells continue to show their ability to successfully treat human disease and injury, while embryonic stem cells continue to demonstrate zero benefits for humans, and only limited results in animal models." (http://www.stemcellresearch.org/press/2008-02-27_JAMA.pdf)
Links to references in this article:
Adult Stem Cell Treatment Has Been Developed to Form New Bones
Journal of the American Medical Association Stem Cell Transplantation abstract:
Why Embryonic Stem Cells Are Obsolete by Dr. Bernadine Healy