Bone Marrow Stem Cells May be Used to Treat Child in the Womb

EXETER, September 13, 2004 ( - The “BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) Festival of Science” at the University of Exeter, heard last week about research being done that may result in treatments for brain damage using the patient’s own stem cells. Dr Huseyin Mehmet of Imperial College told the conference that transplanted human foetal bone marrow cells were found to integrate into the brains of mouse foetuses still in utero and repair damaged tissue.  Dr. Mehmet says he is hopeful that treatment can be developed that would reverse brain damage in newborns and treat genetic defects while the child is still in the womb. Dr. Mehmet’s group found a way of removing stem cells from a child while still in the womb. “We have taken these cells out of a human, and we have asked the question: can they become brain cells in the lab? The answer is yes. Can we inject them back into an embryo - of course we are not going to do it in a human embryo, this is all done in mice - and then ask, can they integrate into the developing mouse brain? The answer is, yes they can.”

Bone marrow is well known as a source of adult stem cells. Until recently it was thought that there were severe limitations on the different types of cells bone marrow stem cells could be induced to change into. Recent work in Canada has shown however that those initial reservations are unfounded. Researchers in London Ontario found that adult bone marrow can be changed into a variety of different organ tissues.  He estimates another ten years of work must be done with animal trials before treatments can be developed for human beings. “There is nothing to stop us, two months into the pregnancy, taking those cells. Then we have seven months to manipulate those cells in a controlled laboratory environment, correct the genetic defect - haemophilia, thalassaemia, anaemia, any genetic defect where we know the cause - and put those corrected cells back into the patient they originally came from.”  Dr. Mehmet did not give his opinion on abortion but he did take a moment to remind conferees that babies are often saved who are born before 23 weeks gestation. He said, “I am not here to discuss the moral and ethical issues, but just to remind you, the legal age for abortion is 24 weeks’ gestation.”

Guardian Coverage:,12996,1300306,00.html   Adult Bone Marrow in Successful Cell Regeneration   Adult Bone Marrow Cells Can Become Brain Tissue

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