GLASGOW, November 24, 2010 ( – In a clinical trial in Glasgow, doctors have injected stem cells derived from aborted children into the brain of an elderly stroke patient in an effort to restore his brain function.

The experiment is part of a series of trials using foetal cells in hopes of repairing damage done by strokes. “This is a first in man safety study,” lead investigator Dr. Keith Muir told Medscape Medical News.

Muir, a neuroscientist at Glasgow University and a consultant neurologist at Southern General Hospital, said if the trials went well it would lead to more detailed research.

“We hope that in the future it will lead to larger studies to determine the effectiveness of stem cells on the disabilities that result from strokes,” he said.

The cells were taken from a line created from the brain of an aborted 12 week-old child.

“Critics of stem cell development generally have various reasons for their ethical objections,” Dr. Muir said.

“For most, it relates to embryo use – not relevant in this case. Others might object to termination of pregnancy, but these cells are derived from material donated to a tissue bank from a single legal termination many years ago, which was done for social reasons and was unrelated to the subsequent use.”

Although the BBC claims that the man is the “first person in the world” to have received such treatment, previous trials of brain injections with aborted foetal tissue have already resulted in a string of spectacular, and for the patients, devastating failures.

As recently as last year, a report in the journal Public Library of Science said a boy in Israel who was being treated with foetal stem cells for a fatal genetic disease, ataxia telangiectasia, responded with the growth of tumors in his brain and spinal cord .

The boy’s parents had taken him for three years to a clinic in Moscow where he was injected in his brain and spinal cord with tissue taken from aborted children. Later, Israeli doctors discovered a mass of tumors pressing on his brain stem and spinal cord which revealed to have been composed of foetal cells.

In the May 1996 issue of Neurology, an experiment was described with a Parkinson’s patient who had been injected with aborted foetal tissue that resulted in the uncontrollable growth of “hair shafts, skin, cartilage and bone” in the patient’s brain.

A study published in the March 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine described the use of embryonic stem cells on Parkinson’s patients that resulted in what the researchers themselves described as “disastrous side effects”.

In the 2001 study, in the case of 15 percent of the patients who underwent an embryonic stem cell treatment, the cells began producing too much dopamine, causing patients to “chew constantly” and “writhe and twist, jerk their heads, fling their arms about”. Lead researcher Dr. Paul Greene remarked that the results are “absolutely devastating … It was tragic, catastrophic. It’s a real nightmare. And we can’t selectively turn it off.”

In August 2003, a similar experiment using cells derived from aborted tissue, a repeat of an earlier attempt, resulted in what researchers involved called “catastrophic” and irreversible side effects. The study, published in the Annals of Neurology, showed that of the 23 Parkinson’s patients who received transplants of aborted fetal tissue, 13 developed irreversible spasmodic movements in their limbs.

For the Glasgow experiment, the unnamed patient was injected with the cells directly to the affected region of his brain and was discharged from the hospital. Doctors intend to monitor his progress for two years.

In the meantime, work has already begun in recruiting 12 more stroke victims for further research.


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