Delivering on the Promise?
Regenocyte—an independent biotechnology firm—is exploring the potential of adult stem cells for cardiovascular and severe lung disease. For more about the experimental process from lead researcher Dr. Zannos Grekos and for patient stories, visit Regenocyte – Adult Stem Cell Therapy or call The Heart and Vascular Institute in Naples, Florida, at 866-216-5710.
News Worth Knowing
With so much adult stem cell research underway, it can be tough to keep track of it all. Here are more breakthroughs that are worth keeping an eye on.
Crohn’s Disease: Resetting the Immune System
For sufferers of Crohn’s disease, everyday life can feel like a never-ending bout of food poisoning. The disease arises when the immune system attacks the stomach and intestines, causing abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. No cure for the condition has yet been found, but Julian Panes, a gastroenterologist at the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, thinks he may have hit on the most effective treatment yet: giving chronic Crohn’s patients an infusion of their own adult stem cells to “reset” their immune systems, ending the body’s misguided efforts to attack the digestive system.
The procedure Dr. Panes uses is a straightforward but grueling one. First, patients receive a round of chemotherapy to depress their immune systems, then blood is drawn to obtain a critical mass of adult stem cells. “We check that there is a sufficient number of cells to complete two procedures, just to make sure we are on the safe side,” Dr. Panes says. “After another round of chemotherapy, we infuse the cells into the patient, and the cells populate the bone marrow.” So far, he adds, the treatment seems to result in quick and effective healing of patients’ damaged digestive tissue. “We already have four patients that have been transplanted for more than a year, and three of them are completely without any symptoms. The disease made them miserable, and now they have a normal life.” Dr. Panes plans to begin large-scale clinical trials of the treatment within the next few years.
Reconstructive Surgery: The Next Level
Jeremy Mao, director of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine, thinks he’ll someday be able to do lasting reconstructions of the breast and skin using soft-tissue implants studded with adult stem cells.
In a 2007 animal study, Dr. Mao demonstrated the viability of his technique. First, he inserted adult stem cells that generate fatty tissue into minuscule channels etched in hydrogel implants. He added a growth factor known to promote the development of blood-vessel tissue. Then he transplanted the hydrogel cylinders into mice. He observed that fatty tissue grew in the region of each cylinder—and that it stayed healthy because networks of blood vessels formed to support the new tissue. “When you put micro-channels in the hydrogel, they become a conduit for the blood vessels,” he says.
If Dr. Mao’s technique works in humans, surgeons may be able to perform successful breast reconstructions without silicone and design facial soft-tissue implants that actually hold their shape. Dr. Mao also thinks his method of engineering tissue with its own blood vessel supply will eventually help researchers who use stem cells to build replacement kidneys and livers. “The work we are doing could be informative for more complex organs.”
For more, read “The Post Investigates: The Other Stem Cells,” in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, on newsstands through February. Subscribe online or purchase the issue at ShopThePost.com.
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