The Associated Press surprised me and, I suspect, many other readers with a dramatic story on the contrasts between adult and embryonic stem cell research and a headline indicating what pro-life advocates and readers of this blog have long known: the use of adult stem cell research is helping patients now and far outpacing embryonic studies. Here’s a report on this development from the folks at LifeNews.com:
“For all the emotional debate that began about a decade ago on allowing the use of embryonic stem cells, it’s adult stem cells that are in human testing today. An extensive review of stem cell projects and interviews with two dozen experts reveal a wide range of potential treatments,” AP admitted.
A few of the examples highlighted include multiple sclerosis, heart damage, juvenile diabetes, and blindness from chemical burns.
“Apart from these efforts, transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases,” AP noted.
Dr. David Scadden of Harvard told the news service that the ability of adult stem cells to help patients with a wide range of diseases and conditions helps it stand out from embryonic, which has never helped a single person.
“That’s really one of the great success stories of stem cell biology that gives us all hope,” he said. “If we can recreate that success in other tissues, what can we possibly imagine for other people?”
And Rocky Tuan of the University of Pittsburgh told AP that adult stem cells have “a very interesting and potent quality that embryonic stem cells don’t have.”
Dr. David Prentice, a former Indiana State University biology professor and now a fellow at the Family Research Council, responded to the AP article saying its title “Adult Stem Cell Research Far Ahead of Embryonic” is “straight from Malcolm Ritter and the Associated Press” and finally “highlights some of the real successes and promise of adult stem cells, as opposed to the wishful thinking and hype of embryonic stem cells.”
The news story focuses on Dr. Thomas Einhorn at Boston University Medical Center who worked on a case injecting a patient’s bone marrow into a broken ankle that wouldn’t heal — four months later the ankle was healed.
“As the AP piece notes, it’s an example of many innovative therapies doctors are studying with adult stem cells; stem cells taken from body tissue and umbilical cord blood, not embryos,” Prentice says.
“Many of the treatments, including new ones being tested in clinical trials now, rely on the idea that stem cells can form other cell types. That seems to be the case for Einhorn’s ankle-repair technique, with the adult stem cells forming new bone and blood vessels,” Prentice said. “But adult stem cells also seem to have abilities to stimulate tissue repair or suppress the immune system.”
AP concludes its article saying the potential for adult stem cells, unlike embryonic, appears limitless and the successes it noted “only hint at what’s being explored in experiments across the United States.”
All I can say is, “Amen.”