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Adult stem cells post staggering record of success

Adult stem cells, easily harvested from sites such as human bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and fat tissue, have an impressive track record of treating more than 90 medical conditions and diseases, including sickle cell anemia, multiple myeloma cancer and damaged heart tissue – all while doing no harm to donor or recipient.

So why do so many Americans, including some physicians, continue to champion research involving embryonic stem cells when this type of intervention has no documented cases of improving health and also requires the destruction of human life in its youngest form?

That question was pondered by Dr. David Prentice July 10 at the National Right to Life convention during his presentation “Adult Stem Cells: Saving Lives Now.“

Prentice, vice president and research director for the Washington, D.C.-based Charlotte Lozier Institute – the education and research arm of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List – reported that more than 70,000 patients throughout the world are receiving adult stem cell transplants annually, with an estimated 1 million total patients treated to date.

“How many people have been cured using embryonic stem cells?” Prentice asked his audience. “Zero,” he answered, noting that misinformation in the media and the Internet continues to promote “fairy tales” about the promise of embryonic stem cells in curing disease and being the elusive “fountain of youth” for mankind.

“You’ve got to destroy that young human being to get the embryonic stem cells,” Prentice said of the over-hyped technology.

Conversely, adult cells – undifferentiated cells that already exist among the differentiated cells that make up specific tissues or organs – can be isolated and deployed to various parts of the body to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissue.    

Ample supplies

There is more good news about adult stem cells besides its ethical supremacy, Prentice said. Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells are readily available to the majority of patients.

Many types of adult stem cells can be harvested in relatively painless, outpatient procedures. For example, adult stem cells from bone marrow, once accessible only by deep needle extraction, can now be collected in a process akin to giving blood. Another source of stem cells – fat tissue – can be tapped via liposuction.

Also, despite being tagged as “adult,” children can receive the therapy as early as the in-utero stage, and the donors of adult stem cells do not have to be adult at all.

“Babies are born with (adult) stem cells throughout their body,” said Prentice, an adjunct professor of molecular genetics at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America. “The umbilical cord that we cut off after the baby is born is rich in what we call adult stem cells.”

Besides requiring the killing of human life, Prentice said embryonic stem cell research posed a major threat to women’s health  that went largely unpublicized during the height of the push for this technology in the first decade of the 21st century. Women between the ages of 21 and 35 were actively sought and handsomely paid for their eggs to keep pace with the demands of heavily funded research. To harvest a woman’s eggs, the donor is given a regimen of hormones over a period of three to five days, Prentice said. Unforeseen side-effects included ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, kidney failure and infertility.

“Some women have even died in the process,” Prentice said.

Cloning continues in U.S.  

Because of these and other ethical objections, France, Canada, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and about 25 other countries, excluding the United States, have banned human cloning, which uses living embryos for experimental purposes before killing them in the lab.

“We’re actually behind the international curve here in the United States,” Prentice said, noting that the FDA has hit a new low by looking into the possibility of approving the production of three-parent embryos – those involving cellular donations from one father and two mothers.
 
To offset the bad press – including public repugnance to the idea of “designer babies” – Prentice said private companies seeking funding for embryonic stem cell research have begun to refer to cloning in a less “science fiction” way – as “somatic cell nuclear transfer.”

“It’s kind of science run amok,” Prentice said. “They’re not actually correcting or treating anybody (with embryonic stem cells). They’re talking about new individuals who will be genetically engineered to their specifications.”

Current protections in place include the federal Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to create or destroy human embryos for experiments; and some states, including Louisiana, have banned research related to human cloning and human-animal hybrids.

Kansas leading the charge

In 2013, the University of Kansas took a lead role in the pro-life and highly successful area of research by establishing the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, a multi-specialty hub of cutting-edge adult stem cell research. Prentice, a member of the center’s advisory board, ended his presentation with examples of some of the exciting breakthroughs to date, including photos of the adult stem cell beneficiaries:

➤ A woman grew an entirely new bladder made from her own adult stem cells.

➤ A woman initially told by her doctors that she would have to have her leg amputated kept the leg after her own bone marrow was enlisted to grow new blood vessels in the diseased limb.

➤ A man who lost part of his jaw to cancer regrew his jawbone, has no lingering signs of disfigurement and was able to eat his first solid meal in nine years.

➤ A young girl with a perpetual “soft spot” on her head successfully grew bone over the spot, thanks to adult stem cells taken from her own fat tissue.

➤ Damaged corneal tissue has been successfully regenerated, restoring vision.
 
➤ In one published case, a man with Parkinson’s disease was treated with adult stem cells – from his own brain – and has had no symptoms of the disease for five years.

➤ Genetic skin diseases also are being treated successfully. One new technique involves the spraying of adult stem cells onto third-degree burns to generate fresh skin growth in half the time of a traditional skin graft.

➤ Paralyzed individuals and stroke patients have seen improvements in mobility after being treated with stem cells from their nasal tissue.

➤ Promising trials are taking place in the treatment of juvenile diabetes. In one current trial, 21 out of 24 patients are in total remission.

➤ A man suffering from multiple sclerosis has had no symptoms of the disease nine years after receiving adult stem cell therapy. One ongoing trial involves 500 MS patients, Prentice said.

➤ Procedures already successfully treating children for sickle cell anemia – using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood – are now seeing fledgling success in adults. “I’ve seen, for sickle cell, that ‘C word’ – cure – used (when referring to) adult stem cells,” Prentice said.
 
As adult stem cell treatments gain credibility in science journals, insurance companies increasingly are covering the procedures, Prentice notes. Interventions in more experimental phases of study, such as those treating spinal cord injuries, are less likely to be covered by insurance plans, he said.

“The bottom line is the adult stem cells are the ones that work – they’re working now in patients,” Prentice said. “I’m telling you all these (stories of success), but you’re probably not seeing it in the news, right?”

Prentice said the website www.stemcellresearchfacts.org offers statistics and patient testimonials; information on current trials can be found at www.clinicaltrials.gov; and the Lozier Institute’s website is www.lozierinstitute.org.

Beth Donze can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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