Stem Cell Advances
We know you have so many questions about embryonic and adult stem cells.
- What is a stem cell?
- Are embryonic stem cells the only stem cells?
- Who is being treated with adult stem cells?
How can I find out about adult stem cell clinical trials and therapies?
- What is happening with embryonic stem cell research?
- What is happening with embryonic stem cell clinical trials?
Let’s take a look at the published science on embryonic stem cells.
It does not support pursuit of embryonic stem cell use in medical treatments.
Scientists have been working with embryonic stem cells since 1980, when mouse embryonic stem cells were first derived. Safety concerns that prevent human embryonic stem cells from advancing to the clinic have been observed and researched in mouse embryonic stem cells for nearly three decades, without successful resolution of the resulting tumor formation or immune rejection issues. With the January 2009 FDA approval to start the first human clinical trial using an embryonic stem cell product, some were hopeful that these safety issues might have been resolved. However, by August 2009, the FDA indefinitely delayed this embryonic stem cell trial because of safety issues that belatedly became apparent from previous animal tests.
Science has demonstrated that embryonic stem cells are by nature neoplastic (Nature Biotechnology 2009 vol 27 page 91), or cancer forming, once they have been removed from their normal environment. There is significant clinical evidence that cancer stem cells, particularly for aggressive cancers, express the unique and special genes that embryonic stem cells express (Nature Genetics 2008 vol 40 page 499).
The allure of embryonic stem cells lies in their ability to differentiate into any and all of the potential cells of the human body. The NIH released draft guidelines for embryonic stem cell research in May 2009, in which they stated that embryonic stem cells might treat Parkinson’s Disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, diabetes, and arthritis. I took the opportunity to point out to the NIH that the diseases they had highlighted are complex, polygenic diseases that are driven by an autoimmune attack. One cannot treat these diseases with an embryonic stem cell and promise a cure– the autoimmune attack will destroy the stem cells as well. In response to my comments, and probably to similar comments from other scientists, the NIH toned down their promises in the final guidelines and state only that embryonic stem cell research has the potential to improve our understanding of human health and illness (http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/pages/2009guidelines.aspx).
What could embryonic stem cell treatment cost?
In their excitement over finally receiving FDA approval for their clinical trial, which as I mentioned earlier has been put on clinical hold due to safety concerns that became evident after the approval, Geron told the general public how expensive their embryonic treatment would be, “not … $500,000”. If this embryonic stem cell therapy won’t be $500,000.00 then what will it be, $490,000? That seems like a lot to pay for a cancer forming stem cell.
What could adult stem cell treatment cost?
Let’s talk briefly about ‘self’ adult bone marrow stem cells. Each one of you has stem cells within your body– as a matter-of-fact, within every organ of your body. Stem cells taken from a patient’s own bone marrow have been used to treat heart attack, stroke, paralysis, diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. The price tag, you might ask? On average $25,000.
For those of you who follow the stem cell debates closely, you may think I have made a mistake in listing diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis as diseases that have been treated with ‘self’ adult stem cells. Those are autoimmune diseases, and as I pointed out when discussing the false promises made for embryonic stem cell research, autoimmune diseases are not amenable to stem cell therapy per se. So, how can adult stem cells possibly treat or cure these diseases? What has been done recently has been to use non-myeloablative ‘mini’ chemotherapy to kill off the autoimmune attacking cells. Before the patient is given ‘mini’ chemotherapy, stem cells from their blood or bone marrow are taken and then used to help the patient recover rapidly from the chemotherapy. For autoimmune diseases, the chemotherapy treats the disease and the adult stem cells treat the damage from the chemotherapy. Embryonic stem cells cannot be used in this same way.
Public money can be dedicated to advancing affordable, effective and safe stem cell therapies, particularly those using ‘self’ adult bone marrow. In fact, these therapies require public money because they are not the types of treatments that commercial companies will pursue.
Click here to help us advance safe, effective and affordable adult stem cell treatments for everyone.