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Stem Cell Therapy Causes Tumors 327

SpaceAdmiral writes, "Using human embryonic stem cells, researchers have cured a Parkinson's-like disease in rats. Unfortunately, the Parkinson's cure causes brain tumors." From the first article: "...10 weeks into the trial, [University of Rochester researchers] discovered brain tumours had begun to grow in every animal treated... By definition, human embryonic stem cells have the almost mythical, immortal power to grow and divide indefinitely as they become the various tissues that make up the body. As a result, scientists have always known that any stem cell therapy could result in an uncontrolled growth of cells that could give rise to cancer."
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Stem Cell Therapy Causes Tumors

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  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jhon (241832) * on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:23PM (#16553642) Homepage Journal
    This experiment proves that stem cells can be used to cure disease
    No it didn't. This experiment shows what has LONG been established -- that stem cells (embryonic, in this case) can be used to TREAT diseases. There are in fact already TREATMENTS for several diseases that utilize stem cells -- virtually ALL either adult stem cells from the patient themself or donor cord blood stem cells.

    What this experiment ALSO shows is the difficulty in using EMBRYONIC stem cells in that they often (and EVERY instance in this experiment) lead to uncontrolled growth (read CANCER).
  • Re:Calm down.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:29PM (#16553716)
    Dude, I don't know where you usually publish, but Nature Med is a top-tier journal. It's impact factor is 28.9 for 2005, putting it just behind Nature (29.2), Cell (29.4), and Science (30.9) and way ahead of Lancet (23.4) and JNCI (15.2). The only medical journal it's clearly worse than is NEJM (44.0) and that's far more clinical than basic.

    Not disagreeing with your point, btw, but let's be fair: this is a piece of top-tier science from a big-name lab here, not some "interesting" results in a "pretty good" journal I'd say.
  • by nikclev (590173) * <nikclev&hotmail,com> on Monday October 23, 2006 @06:36PM (#16553806)
    Scientific American had an article in june talking about stem cells and their role in some cancers.. specificly that some cancers are caused by stem cells in "normal" people going awry. From june SciAm: D-0C0A-1498-8C0A83414B7F0000&sc=I100322 [] Pretty interesting read, IMHO.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <> on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:10PM (#16554176) Homepage Journal
    So question is, what 'controls' or tells the cells when to start and stop? I would hope this is a question being asked, because it would seem to this simple geek that the answer to that would both unlock the usage of stem/cord/etc cells and perhaps aid in stopping cancer (when cells decide to go haywire).

    Yep- that's the primary area of stem cell research today. How to get them to start, how to get them to stop, how to control what they turn into. And it's not one solution; different target tissues with different starting stem cells seem to require different growth and stopping solutions. And even then, the research is young- we can't be 100% sure.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <> on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:29PM (#16554346) Homepage Journal
    Are you aware of any current embryonic stem cell therapy currently used at all? Nevermind routinely?

    Yes I am- but it's a bit of a failure for other reasons. The real safety concern in using adult stem cells is implant compatibility- embryonic stem cells have a tendency to keep their mitochondrial information even when the nucleus is destroyed, thus causing rejection of the tissue created.

    There are a number of ROUTINE ADULT stem cell therapies in use today. From treating multiple blood disorders (leukemia, for example).

    Absolutely agreed- but they all contain this particular danger; you can *cause* leukemia with the exact same therapy as the treatment if you're not careful.

    From everything I've read, adult stem cells are less likely to result in uncontrolled growth. Far less.

    I think that may depend upon your definition of uncontrolled- like I said, many cancers are *caused* by adult stem cells having uncontrolled growth. I think what you mean is that Adult Stem Cells are less omnipotentary- they can create fewer types of tissue, so you're far more likely to create the tissue you want instead of the tissue you don't. This alone means a much lower chance of *malignant* cancer- but without the *benign* cancer, you wouldn't have any tissue to implant to begin with.

    Their effectiveness in neurological disorders is on par with embryonic stem cells, far less risk of rejection (once the cells differentiate) and far less chance of the uncontrolled growth of embryonic stem cells.

    I think what you're missing here is different types of uncontrolled growth. The one the article is talking about is the difficulty of stopping the accellerated growth once started (even an adult stem cell therapy won't do you any good if it takes a human lifetime to grow an organ for replacement). That affects all forms of stem cells equally. The one you're talking about is *additional differerntiation* which is a different type of tumor. The adult stem cells are much less likely to grow something you don't want.
  • Bullshit. (Score:3, Informative)

    by billybob_jcv (967047) on Monday October 23, 2006 @07:47PM (#16554482)
    Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenile-Onset Diabetes currently has no cure, and stem cell research is currently the best hope. Testing blood glucose levels through finger sticks and taking insulin through multiple shots per day or an insulin pump is a poor treatment - with many long-term side effects and the chance EVERYDAY of having a low-blood glucose episode that may cause lose of consciousness and/or seizures. 1 in 600 kids worldwide develop Type 1 Diabetes and they did NOTHING to cause it - which means the incidence is MUCH higher than AIDS. Stop listening to the christian right and start reading actual medical & scientific journals.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:3, Informative)

    by The_Wilschon (782534) on Monday October 23, 2006 @10:35PM (#16555584) Homepage
    Whereas this "accelerated growth" natural for embryonic stem cells, and VERY much unwanted, in adult stem cells, are less likely to give rise to the uncontrolled growth seen with embryonic stem cells.
    I'm not normally a grammar nazi, but that sentence was so borked that I cannot understand it. Well, with sufficient work, I might be able to puzzle out what you meant. But I'm tired and it is not worth that much work. The amount of work required would almost certainly be more than that required to post a reply bitching about it.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @12:36AM (#16556196) Journal
    Okay. My point was, the rest of the world is zipping merrily ahead while the US sits and debates politics and/or religion, and turns good science into another chess piece. Better sort it out quick or you'll be left too far behind to catch up!

    I think you and many others here are missing the point.

    First of all, there is no law against embryonic stem cell research in the US. All the current Prez did was fund research for existing stem cell lines from embryos and other sources (adult and chord blood stem cells). Now here is the key point so pay attention. Before this point, there was NO federal funding for stem cell research at all, embryonic or otherwise. Bush opened funding for certain types of research, which made some scientist realize they were not getting some of the pie. This upset them and gave the Bush-haters something to spin. You have people like Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeves and even Nancy Reagan acting like Bush took money AWAY from stem cell research when all he did was fund other areas of it, when in fact, Bush is first US Prez to fund any type of stem cell research at all!

    I guess an analogy would be if the Prez released federal money to research Solar power, where there was none before, but not wind because windmills kill birds. The Wind power people get all pissed off and say the Prez is responsible for ruining the environment because he refuses to release funds for Wind power reseach.
  • Re:Tumors? (Score:3, Informative)

    by blitz77 (518316) on Tuesday October 24, 2006 @01:54AM (#16556482)
    What he's basically explaining comes down to the essential differences between embryonic and adult stem cells. Embyronic stem cells are what are known as 'totipotent' - they can differentiate into any kind of cell in the human body. Adult stem cells are 'pleuripotent' - they can differentiate into a limited number of cell types (or even just one kind).This difference is due to the fact that these pleuripotent cells are already somewhat down the differentiation process. However there is also another major difference between embryonic and adult stem cells: The division of these totipotent embryonic cells yields 2 totipotent stem cells. When these divide, they produce 4. And so on-hence the exponential growth/accelerated growth/cancer tendency etc. Pleuripotent (adult) stem cells, on the other hand, when they divide, produce one daughter pleuripotent (adult) stem cell, and one cell that is NOT a stem cell. Hence adult stem cells are much less likely to cause cancer/uncontrolled growth since the NUMBER OF ADULT STEM CELLS DOES NOT INCREASE, unlike embryonic stem cells. Hope that helped.

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