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Bone Marrow Cells Repair Heart 116

Science Daily is reporting that Toronto researchers have discovered a method to utilize bone marrow cells in the repair of a damaged heart after a heart attack. From the article: "While it has long been known that bone marrow cells have the ability to clear the dead tissue after a heart attack, what has not been known until now is the critically important role of bone marrow adult stem cells in repairing a damaged heart, restoring its function and enhancing the growth of new blood vessels."
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Bone Marrow Cells Repair Heart

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:44PM (#15657349)
    But can it fix a broken one? CAN IT, TACO!

    Until then, you're not off the hook!
  • Way to go Canada (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:48PM (#15657361) Journal
    3 cheers for Canada, but this is only research involving mice. Let's see how it works for humans before our hopes get to far up.

    And not to start a religious flame war, I noticed that despite their research revolving exclusively around adult (stem) cells, they mention "One treatment resulting from this discovery was to inject cells genetically modified to release large amounts of stem cell factor into the region of the heart injured by the heart attack."

    Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?
    • by Trigun ( 685027 )
      Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?

      Only until their own mortality comes into question. At least, for most of them.
      • Re:Way to go Canada (Score:4, Informative)

        by barzok ( 26681 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:14PM (#15657437)
        Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?

        Only until their own mortality comes into question. At least, for most of them.
        Then they aren't terribly serious about their religion in the first place.

        My wife worked in a hospital (children's ICU to be specific) for about 18 months and routinely had cases where she had to tell the parents "if you refuse blood products for your child, his/her chances for survival are less than half what they are if you accept them." And many, many times, the parents still refused for religious reasons.

        These are the people who will still say "no" even when it's their own mortality in question.
        • "if you refuse blood products for your child, his/her chances for survival are less than half what they are if you accept them." And many, many times, the parents still refused for religious reasons.

          I ALWAYS say that!

          ** I'm not actually religious, but it serves the noisy little bastard right.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          These are the people who will still say "no" even when it's their own mortality in question.

          Personally I find this strange too, but on the other hand.

          If you have to make a choice between:

          (a) possibly leaving this world sooner or (b) eternal damnation

          and one does take ones religious reasons serious enough... I can actually imagine people preferring the second option.

          My opinion is simply: 'if you do not hurt or risk the lives of other people you can choose whatever you want'... but when children ent

          • Actually, it should be a very simple issue.

            If the child can't make his own decision, you tell the parents "tough shit" and you proceed with treatment.

            Religion != good enough reason to injure someone else.
          • but when children enter the situation, this can become a very complicated issue.
            Why? It's not complicated at all; if the parent doesn't like it, too bad. Not allowing it is nothing short of murder on religious grounds. Too many people die because of zealots every day.
          • Exactly. From their point of view, refusing medical treatment is a rational choice.

            The question is whether people should be given the choice. If the doctors are actually sure the children's chances of survival drop considerably, I'd permit them (by law) to disregard whatever the parents say. I do wonder why they don't do that already.
        • First, I'm not questioning how much they love their children.
          But it is still not their own lives.
          Do you have numbers on how many refuse it for themselves, and not their children ?
          I'm pretty sure the numbers will be much more different.
        • Re:Way to go Canada (Score:5, Informative)

          by ehrichweiss ( 706417 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:52PM (#15657701)
          Dunno where you live but here(I'm in KY), the moment you say you refuse to allow treatment for the child in a life threatening situation, for whatever reason, the child becomes a ward of the state and all of your parental rights are suspended. They simply file claiming child abuse and then go about their own way regardless of your religious affiliation. Refusal to comply beyond that jeopardizes custody of any other children you might have. I've seen this in action at least 4 times in the past 10 years and my friend in social services says it's entirely legitimate.

          You can refuse immunization, etc. but if it's a life threatening situation the game changes entirely. Many states have this, AFAIK.

          • Thanks for posting that, it makes me happy. I remember watching this godawful made for tv movie about a rowdy bunch of christian scientists who let their son die because prayers work better than medicine. I'm glad it doesn't really take place that way.
          • Your comment violated the "postercomment" compression filter. Try less whitespace and/or less repetition. Comment aborted.
          • I have little doubt that what you say is true; but if so, why bother asking for consent in the first place? To see who will fall for it? I wonder if parental rights can be restored with a legal challenge?
            • If I understand it correctly, the doctors make a recommendation that X amount of blood(or whatever) is needed and it's around that time that the parents start objecting, etc. so it's less of asking for consent and more of watching for those responses to the suggested medical procedures. I don't know though, I'm neither a doctor nor a social worker.

              I'm sure that parental rights could be restored but not before the medical procedure was performed. You'd need incredible amounts of power in the government to

        • by WalksOnDirt ( 704461 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:35PM (#15657802)
          I suspect that some of those parents refused transfusions because they believed what the Bible said (in their eyes) was more likely to be right than the doctor. Not right morally but scientifically: The AIDS cases caused by transfusions were a powerful reinforcement of biblical infallibility in medical matters for those who already believed transfusions were prohibited. The fact that the number of these transmissions was statistically small at the time (except for hemophiliacs) and now almost zero does not matter; they think the risk of that and other similar unknown dangers are too high to risk.

          It's not hard to find examples where doctors have been wrong about the safety of treatments in the past, so we know they are not infallible. The Bible on the other hand...

          Silly as it seems, I have known people who held these views and tried to convince me of them. When you realize that many of the same people believe the Earth is under 10,000 years old and that there is no such thing as "macro evolution", you can understand how hopeless it can be to try to convince them their medical ideas are wrong.
          • they think the risk of that and other similar unknown dangers are too high to risk.

            Fearing the unknown without rhyme or reason... yeah, sounds like religion to me.

            When you realize that many of the same people believe the Earth is under 10,000 years old and that there is no such thing as "macro evolution", you can understand how hopeless it can be to try to convince them their medical ideas are wrong.

            Exactly. And these people shouldn't have children to start with, let alone allow them to make life and

          • It's not hard to find examples where doctors have been wrong about the safety of treatments in the past, so we know they are not infallible. The Bible on the other hand...
            Back in my day blood letting used to be the real cure all. Migrain, no worries, let some blood flow out, Chicken pox, flush it out of the system with a bit of blood letting.

            It worked....sometimes, but AT THE TIME that was the best thing to do. How i see it is that if you want to follow the bible, then you are taking a step 2000 years b
          • It's not hard to find examples where doctors have been wrong about the safety of treatments in the past, so we know they are not infallible. The Bible on the other hand... ...is known to be false in almost every particular. I'm sure a few folks will jump in with minor claims from the Bible that are demonstrably true, although none comes to mind offhand. The lilies of the field do indeed toil, for example--they are working as hard to maintain their lives as any organism, respiring and fighting off disease
          • It's not hard to find examples where doctors have been wrong about the safety of treatments in the past, so we know they are not infallible. The Bible on the other hand...

            One of the main reason that doctors and others in the scientific branch of medicine have more credibility is that so many of them are open and factual about their limits and failures. Granted, a lot of practicing doctors do pretend to be gods, but the medical field as a whole is fairly open about their failures.

            Religious people, OTOH, ten
        • "These are the people who will still say "no" even when it's their own mortality in question."

          Heh. That's evolution in action: I like to see these genes get weeded out - but it's a concern when these fools have already bred. Hopefully they die before their children can be indoctrinated into the religious claptrap the parents fell for.

        • Is the [stem-cell issue] going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?

          Only until their own mortality comes into question.


          There was a widely-copied Dooonesbury strip on this topic [doonesbury.com] a while back.

          This has always seemed like a good idea to me. Similarly the suggestion that people with racist ideologies should be denied the medical results of research done by members of the groups that they don't like. It could be a bit difficult to actually implement these in any formal manner, tho
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?

      Every medical advance is a problem for the religious types who fret over it. The next generation will adapt their religion to accomodate practicality and then they can enjoy the benefits along with the rest of us. No harm done. It worked for transplants.
    • Re:Way to go Canada (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:00PM (#15657392)
      research revolving exclusively around adult (stem) cells

            I had the opportunity to sit into a session of the cardiology department at a large hospital here in Costa Rica, where the attendings were planning to do this kind of research in humans. Since I was only rotating through for a month as an intern, I never found out if they actually got the project started or not. Probably not. This was about 2 years ago and I haven't seen anything published.

            Still it was interesting stuff, the haematologist who was visiting us went into a lot of detail. One of the problems they've had with the mice, apparently, is that these stem cells regenerate TOO MUCH myocardium (heart muscle). Apparently there were instances where heart muscle would colonize the injection sites and start growing outside the heart, in the thoracic cavity - tumour style.

            One thing I will remember forever from this meeting was the department head, when she expressed surprise at the fact that yes, the patients DO have to be told what we're trying to do to them and yes, they DO have to give permission FIRST.

            Anyway this research is promising but it's a long way from being used in humans routinely, so it's still a good idea to quit smoking...
    • Re:Way to go Canada (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?

      Will it be a problem for the environmentalists who want to ban GMOs? [wikipedia.org]
    • by mfaras ( 979322 )

      3 cheers for Canada

      This scientists, as do all, are elaborating over previous research, I think there's no place for nationalism in science (or in any other area, but especially in science, where knowledege should be public property. I mean, that's the spirit of the Open Source movement, and we don't think of open source production as a nation-related issue.
      To back my words there is another report form 2003 published in slashdot a couple of months ago: Stem Cells in the Heart? [slashdot.org]
      It says

      in 2003, research

    • "Is the whole genetically modified cells (which/what kind of cells?) going to be a problem for the religious types who fret about these things?"

      Won't it just depend on the ratio of their religiosity to closeness to death?
    • Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

      1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

      1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion ov

    • It's not fundementalists that have a problem with genetically modified stuff, it's Europeans. :-)
    • Canada's finally getting in the big time scientific loop, eh?!?
      I say, more power to 'em. They're not involved in any wars or anything like we (in the US) are which is smart, because we spend trillions of dollars on equipment and recruiting and engineering and still we can't do much for Iraq except blow it up. What did that acomplish? Oil anyone?
      Viva la Canada!
  • Adult Stem Cells (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:55PM (#15657375)
    Yet again, adult stem cells are proven to work. That's where more of the research should be.
    • Why differentiate between Adult and Fetal Stem Cells except to whip the Fundies into a frenzy?
      • by cnettel ( 836611 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:05PM (#15657410)
        Fetal cells can't come from yourself, unless you do therapeutic cloning. Extracting bone marrow cells is nowadays a rather common procedure. (That is: not groundbreaking in connection to cancer treatment.) Using your own adult cells would avoid the problem of rejection. Fetal cells are (generally) easier to grow in a medium, as they are overall more flexible. If I continue on this tangent, it's also possible that fetal cells, if not rejected, would be slightly more likely to develop into a tumor, unless properly regulated; especially as many treatments will also contain some kind of growth stimulation at some stage.

        So, they are not alike. There are some clear differences. The main issue about adult cells is of course their potency, can one get to a cell that will differentiate to the desired tissue, and longevity -- is the telomeres already quite shortened. Research in both fields is a good thing, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking there are not pros and cons both ways.

      • Because.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by krell ( 896769 )
        Because one involves butchering children. One does not have to be a "fundy" to recognize that an individual human being is an individual human being. In fact, it is all a matter of biology. Souls and God don't have anything to do with it.
        • Re:Because.... (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          "Butchering children". Better watch out Suzie, the bad, evil scientist man might come around and BUTCHER you!

          It's fine if you don't like abortion, but just say it. Saying you oppose fetal stem cell research becuase it involves "butchering children" doesn't add to the discussion at all.
    • From TFA:

      Dr. Li's team used genetically-engineered mice in which bone marrow cells were modified to carry a green fluorescent marker allowing researchers to easily track them.

      From AFA (from last year:

      Embryonic stem cells from mice can patch up damaged heart muscle in sheep.
      http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8006 [newscientist.com]

      Moreover, if you read the original article carefully, you will see that the ASCs are merely signaling the heart to rebuild itself more rapidly, not directly rebuilding the heart. So this th
    • You're right. And while we're at it, since the umbrella works so well, we should stop doing research into the automobile.
  • Call to action (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * <justin...wick@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:02PM (#15657403)
    This kind of breakthrough is exactly why we need decreased regulations on stem cell research in the United States, as that too could aid in areas such like this. We also need increased government funding - people talk about how many lives are lost in Iraq, but few mention how many could be saved with the same resources. Heck, if the US developed a cure for cancer or AIDS and shared it with the world, maybe they would hate us less and stop killing our civilians.
    • Re:Call to action (Score:5, Insightful)

      by praksys ( 246544 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:58PM (#15657555)
      This kind of stem cell research is no more regulated than any other sort of medical research. I think you have it confused with *embryonic* stem cell research (which is subject to a ban on federal funding).

      In any case, the US has provided cures or vaccines for lots of diseases which have plagued the world. The USMC eradicated malaria in Cuba for example. Fat lot of good that did in terms of good will. It has never changed attitudes and never will because the people who hate the US typically couldn't give a flying fuck about their own people dying from disease, or any other cause.

      Do you think the terrorists, who blow up civillians in their own country every day, will be impressed if the US cures AIDS? Most of them think that AIDS was cooked up by the Jews, or the Americans, or both.
      • The problem is not that US are not helpful... that's why they had so much power, 'cos they helped nations. The issue is that US' help comes with great cost, with dependency issues, if not, with militar strikes, derrocations, and every single kind of interferrence with the foreign peoples will and government.
        CIA fomenting corruption, sedition and generally "lobbying" for US' companies/initiatives to be accepted in those countries you say the US "help".
        Now you know what we hate US for.
        --
        There's no place f
      • No, I knew this was not embroyonic stem cells. I'm just saying that stem cells work, and embryonic stem cells seem to have even more promise, so it's getting harder to argue against making them available for research. Even my fundamentalist Christian sister came to that conclusion after researching the project.
    • Re:Call to action (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:35PM (#15657649)
      Of course, since this research used adult stem cells, it would be totally legit in the United States. So, the real question is how many lives or cures are lost chasing the holy grail of fetal stem cell cures when to date all of the research, world-wide, points to adult stem cells holding the best promise.

      The debate in the U.S. isn't even about fetal vs adult stem cells. It's about who pays for it. The U.S. government hasn't banned fetal stem cell research. It just won't pay for it. If the promise is so good, where are the venture capitalists? They aren't to be found, which is why the fetal stem cell researchers want government funding. The reason the venture capitalists aren't to be found is because they are pouring money into adult stem cell research, not for moral reasons, but because the science shows it has the highest chance of success and therefore the lowest financial risk.

      This Canadian finding is just one more confirmation of what the business people already know. The real question is why doesn't the main stream media in the U.S. run with this story?
      • Re:Call to action (Score:4, Insightful)

        by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * <justin...wick@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:42PM (#15657823)
        If the private sector (I refuse to use the term "free market" - the US market is anything but unregulated!) is an adequate institution for making these kinds of decisions, and producing adequate research, then why do we even have any government funding of any kind?

        The answer is that long ago people realized that the market tends to be rather risk averse, and often thinks in the short term. Also, no corporation in the US can match the amount of money the government throws around - what would be a staggering loss for a medium sized research company is very little for the government as a whole, allowing it to pursue very risky (but potentially beneficial) courses of research. Also, lack of shareholder pressure and legal liability allows the government to fund pure science that may never be "useful" (astrophysics, esoteric mathematics, etc).

        Because tax money is being diverted from the private sector to the public sector to fund these things, the private sector has less to invest in potentially risky things as well, it is a self-perpetuating situation (which seems to be better than the alternative) and it is unlikely that we will see VCs stepping forward to work on embryonic stem cells in the US, especially if they must compete with government-funded research in the EU.
        • Re:Call to action (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:13PM (#15658257)
          You are partially correct in the government funding pure science, such as astrophysics, mathematics, etc. However, medical research is not really pure science. Yes, there is government funding, but most research grants come from industry. Why? Because, the grantor who pays for the research has claims to the patents. Let's say there is some great breakthrough in stem cells that can save millions of lives. What happens when the company wants to charge exhorbantant prices for the cure and it is found out that tax payer dollars paid for the research? Most government funded medical research has strings attached. The universities like it because it a) pays for staff and overhead and b) it attracts private research dollars. However, to turn that research into an actual cure takes business involvement and venture capital (if you are a small firm) or big bankroll if you are somebody like Merck. The government still subsidizes the process but through tax incentives, not grants.

          That is why the universities are the ones who are complaining about the ban on federal funding of fetal stem cell research. There is nothing, however, to stop the Christopher Reeves Foundation, or the Bill Gates or anybody else to fund it, just not the federal government. The problem is that it is too speculative.

          Proponents will say it is too speculative because we don't put enough research money into it. However, that is a bogus argument. The rest of the world does not share in the U.S. ban, and pours billions into it and still the science isn't there. All of the promise is with adult stem cells. Even the use of fetal stem cells is to get the undifferentiated cells to become differentiated, which by definition would be adult stem cells. The purpose of using fetal cells is the misconception that they would be easier to obtain (and for research they would but not for actual use).

          What researchers need is a pure consistent strain of cells. Therefore if they can harvest the fetus for its stem cells and get them to multiply and differentiate into the cells they need, then they have a virtually unlimited supply of cells to test with. However, before they could turn anything into a cure, they have to deal with rejection and a slew of other problems. For this, the easiest thing is to use adult cells from the actual patient.

          That is the beuaty of the Canadian procedure (if it works on humans). The could extract your bone marrow and use it to repair your heart. Since it is your cells produced by your body, there is no problem with typing and rejection that any other source would have.

          To get this to work with fetal cells, they would first have to get the fetal cells to differentiate into stem cells that could repair the heart. That would prove the heart could be repaired (although Canada already proved that). Then they would have to figure out what stem cell they produced and whether they could harvest it from the patient. If so, great, if not, they'd have to try another type. Canada skipped all of the what if and went right to the likely candidate bone marrow.

          It's this simplified research approach that has the VC drooling. Not only have there been over 100 "cures" and treatments already produced from adult stem cells, they are cheaper on the research side and cheaper on the treatment side (because of the rejection issues). For the VC, it's a win-win which fetal stem cells can't compete against.

          As for the private sector's investment potential, one only needs to look at the profits of the pharmaceutical industry to see how lucrative it really is. If you have $100M to give as a grant to something that has a 30% chance of success (adult stem cell) or 3% (fetal stem cell) what would you invest in? The fact that they choose the adult stem cell research is why there is such a cry for federal funding. But shouldn't the government be putting it's (our) money where it has the greatest bang for the buck, too?

          In the end, the debate is not about anything but money, big, big money. It's o
          • That's a very interesting/insightful comment... is there anywhere I can read more about this? Are there any studies that show that adult stem cells are better suited?
            • Re:Call to action (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 )
              I will try and get back and post some research links. Otherwise try googling about on stem cells. Almost all of the "breakthroughs" are with adult stem cells. Even bone marrow transplants are adult stem cells and have been done for years. The problem is you have to wade through all of the hype about what was called embryonic and now more correctly fetal stem cells vs adult stem cells. To date, though, adult stem cells have been used to successfully treat diabetes, spinal,nerve and brain injuries, parki
              • I would not use the Catholic Church or pro-life groups as the final answer, but more as a starting point of gathering information. Besides the occasional media article, such as the Canadian one, most of the info will be in medical journals, etc.

                Yes, I take the same approach as wikipedia. There's always dangers in tainting your original viewpoint that way, but they probably do have a lot of good references (even if they are slightly "selective" in favor of their viewpoint).
      • Re:Call to action (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:35PM (#15657954) Homepage
        The debate in the U.S. isn't even about fetal vs adult stem cells. It's about who pays for it. The U.S. government hasn't banned fetal stem cell research. It just won't pay for it.


        I won't argue the point of fetal vs. adult stem cells - it seems to me, as a layman, that most of the stories and successful research has happenned around adult stem cells. Whether this is because they are more easily available or because fetal stem cell research has been effectively halted in the United States, I don't know. Likely, it is former, as well as there being issues using fetal stem cell lines of any type for treatments - after all, if they were viable in any shape, we should be hearing more from overseas research. So far, not much has been heard, at least to my limited knowledge.

        What I will argue about is regarding the reasoning for banning funding to researchers. It is one thing if a researcher wants money for such research and is denied. It is another thing if they want to do the research, but aren't allowed because they (or their lab/research facilities) currently do government funded research in a completely unrelated (to stem cells) area. Since they take government funds in some manner, for some research, they have the choice of losing all government funding to all research, to research fetal stem cells, or to not research fetal stem cell lines at all and keep what funding they have.

        So, if you are a university (where a lot of research occurs), you are (nearly by default) receiving some form of government funding. Ergo, you cannot do fetal stem cell research (outside of the contaminated lines which were grandfathered in), without losing your government funding for your robotics lab (along with a bunch of other areas). It is either be completely self or privately funded for all areas of research, and be able to research fetal stem cell lines - or keep your government funding for your other research, and forget any fetal stem cell research. Some choice. No wonder private funding isn't available - because once your institution tried to do it, you would also need funding for all of your other research activities, which isn't going to happen, of course.

        I guess we should all hope and pray that fetal stem cell lines continue to be fruitless pursuits, and that somebody outside of America doesn't make that primary discovery that proves to make adult stem cell research obsolete or worthless. Somehow, I think we as country are going to eat our shorts on that one, all because of ignorant, petty and baseless religious objections.

        Religion will be humanity's downfall, and the fundamentalists will be leading the charge...

        • Re:Call to action (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Dcnjoe60 ( 682885 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:39PM (#15658311)
          As I stated in a previous post, this isn't a religious argument. Religion is only being used as a smoke screen to keep the discussion from focussing on the facts. The facts are, as you alluded to, fetal stem cells aren't working. Even with the limited research in the U.S., the rest of the world is doing research at a far greater pace than we would be doing even without the ban.

          The real difference between fetal and adult stem cells in lay terms is that fetal stem cells are undifferentiated (they can turn into anything), adult stem cells are differentiated and depending on where they are from limits what they can turn into. The irony, is that to use fetal stem cells, they first have to become differentiated, so they must be made into the equivelant of adult stem cells (are bodies don't like undifferntiated cells growing in them. we call them cancer). So, for fetal stem cells to work, means that adult stem cells have to work, too.

          As for funding issues and loosing funding, I'm not sure you have that correct. In it's simplest form, I guess it is, but in practice, must universities could simply set up a seperate life-sciences foundation to do the stem cell research which wouldn't then jeapordize their other grants. I'm pretty sure that UCLA and other colleges and universities in California are still getting federal grants even though the state is funding fetal stem cell research.

          Again, the media and others want the public to think that funding is cut off. However, prior to Bush releasing the limited stem cell lines, there was no federal research allowed. So, in effect, he allowed an increase in funding (I am not a Bush fan, by the way, just trying to set the record straight). With the limited lines he released, you can do any kind of research you want. As it turns out, though the lines aren't as useful as first thought.

          There is also no ban on fetal stem cell research with non-human species. Almost every other area of medical research always began with animals. Even adult stem cell research uses animals, first. However, with fetal stem cells, the researchers insist on using stem cells from a human fetus as their first course. One can only assume that since animal fetal stem cells would be less controversial, less costly and more readily available, they would be a no-brainer and yet only a handful of labs in the U.S. use them.

          The rest try to convince the public that the religious right or the Catholic Church or some other group is trying to keep cures from the public. When in reality, that is untrue. The Catholic Church, for instance is supportive of adult stem cell research, just not the destruction of the fetus to obtain fetal stem cells (which seems consistent with their stand on abortion, etc.). But why would the researchers and the media as their pawn use such a tactic? Well first, there is big money involved, billions in grant money, even more in the selling of cures. Second, the science shows that it is adult stem cells that hold the potential. By keeping people focussed on the bogus religious argument, they hope people won't realize the shaky science used to support their position (remember, to use fetal stem cells, you first have to differentiate them or make them adult stem cells). Third, it is the religious types, whether fundamentalist or Catholic or whatever that are trying to get some facts out -- if they are portrayed as the villian in all of this, then their arguments will be dismissed.

          One last thing, you make the statement that it is no wonder that private funding isn't available. However, there is plenty of private funding available. It's just that the majority of it is going to adult stem cell research because of it's proven track record. Venture capitalists aren't stupid. They don't usually get wrapped up in the emotional and moral side of the argument but look simply at the return on their investment. Which course has the best chance of providing a return on their investment? Adult stem cells.
          • You make good points, but I do wonder about what you are saying regarding adult stem cells vs. fetal stem cells - that is, differentiation?

            While not a problem in the short term, I would think that an adult stem cell would be inferior to a differentiated fetal stem cell, mainly in regards to apparent age (shortened telemeres, for example?). In other words, wouldn't a differentiated fetal stem cell be younger than an (obviously differentiated) adult stem cell?

            If so (and I am not a biologist or geneticist, so

      • Of course, since this research used adult stem cells, it would be totally legit in the United States. So, the real question is how many lives or cures are lost chasing the holy grail of fetal stem cell cures when to date all of the research, world-wide, points to adult stem cells holding the best promise.


        And your proof of that postulate is?
        • What proof are you asking for? To date, world wide, there has not been one cure or treatment from fetal stem cells and yet billions of dollars are being poured into it. There are even scientists who believe there are too many obstacles for fetal stem cells to ever produce treatments. However, adult stem cells have produced numerous cures and treatments and have been used for years. Bone marrow transplants are in fact an application of an adult stem cell treatment that has been around longer than use of
          • What proof are you asking for?

            Proof as in proof. Since all scientists in the media i've ever heard says fetal are better.
            • Since the media tends to only report the fetal side of stem cell research, that would explain why you are only hearing the scientist with an interest in it. However, if you try and look at sources outside of the U.S. or look at the medical journals and research grants themself, you will find that it is the adult stem cell research that has all of the break throughs.

              I would surmise that the media reporting is due to it's distaste with anything about the Bush administration. And while the adult stem cell re
              • So when the the BBC [bbc.co.uk] writes Scientists believe the most useful stem cells come from the tissue of embyros. they are just lying bastards?

                I'll believe them.
                • So when the the BBC writes Scientists believe the most useful stem cells come from the tissue of embyros. they are just lying bastards?

                  I'll believe them.


                  No, but then on the other hand, since the BBC is writing for probably a sixth grade level they do have to simplify things. The article does say that Scientists believe the most useful stem cells come from the tissue of embryos, however, it makes no mention of what scientists. The next few paragraphs gives a hint, though when they talk about scientists be
                  • However, if you read further into the article, you will see where the BBC points out that adult stem cells are produced by the body's major organs to repair the organs. So, instead of coaxing an embryonic stem cell to turn into a liver cell, you could just use an already existing liver stem cell.

                    No, you are twisting their words. Scientists say adults cells are not as good as embryonic.
                    The article further explains the benefit of this by pointing out as it says the "huge" benefit of adult stem cell therapies
    • Re:Call to action (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Sathias ( 884801 )
      Heck, if the US developed a cure for cancer or AIDS and shared it with the world, maybe they would hate us less and stop killing our civilians.

      More likely it would be used to sell people their own bone marrow for a profit.
  • by Necromancyr ( 602950 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:08PM (#15657418)
    This is actually old news, and companies already have clinical trials going utilizing adult bone marrow stem cells in this capacity. Look into any big, bone marrow stem cell company and you can find information on whats going on.
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:48PM (#15657524) Homepage Journal
    Do we tend to produce less bone stem cells as we age? Are stem cells from older people less viable for repairs? Should we be freezing our stem cells when we're young?
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:41PM (#15657665) Homepage Journal
      My guess is that adult stem cells do age. Dolly the sheep was cloned using "old" mitochondrial DNA, if I remember the history correctly, and showed premature aging. Provided I've got that right, it would imply that the age of the mitochondria would be very significant. So, older adult stem cells would (by inference) be less effective than younger adult stem cells. It would follow that using younger adult stem cells - OR older adult stem cells with younger/repaired mitochondria - would be more effective.


      What about other adult stem cells? Well, the skin is constantly regenerated by adult stem cells, and unquestionably ages. How much of that is due to the adult stem cells wearing out and how much is due to the chemistry of the skin changing over time I'll leave to experts. (There are experts on Slashdot? :) What amazes me is how rapidly the skin can replace itself, yet keeping features (moles, birthmarks, scars, etc) unchanged. I presume that is precisely because stem cells aren't specialized and therefore acquire the characteristics of what is there. The skin is important to understand in this precisely because it is necessarily very rapidly generating and using those stem cells - my guess would be that it's much faster than any of the other stem cell factories in the body. If I'm right in that, then by comparing adult stem cells of different kinds at different ages would seem to be the way to understand how stem cells (and probably mitochondria) age. It might also give some ideas on how to control the speed of adult stem cell duplication, which might be a valuable tool in treating damage to such factories.


      Getting back to the heart of the matter (argh! :), if the bone marrow stem cells can clear away damaged tissue, you only have half the equation. You still need to repair the damage. The heart repairs, but only so fast. I wonder if it would be possible to use a mixed solution - the bone marrow stem cells with some modified juvenile stem cells (ie: with your DNA present) - the first to clear the damage as described, the latter to rapidly fill in the now-cleared section. Relying on the heart to do all the repair work might not be so good, as the heart cells will be old, which may produce a weaker repair.


      I wonder where else the bone marrow stem cells can remove damage. It would seem that many diseases leave residual damage that the body cannot ordinarily remove and repair. If a general solution existed for removing the damage, even if no solution existed for fixing it, it would seem you can't really lose and (if it stimulates the body's own mechanisms) you would likely gain.

      • Funny you should mention Dolly, she was born 10 years ago today (european time): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolly_the_sheep [wikipedia.org]
      • Dolly was a clone based only on nuclear DNA. The mitochondria came from the original egg donor, and were pristine. What has been discussed is the telomeres, but they are maintained during fetal development. One possible other reason for the issues could be invalid genetic imprinting ("epigenetical factors"), which means that all cells in Dolly in a slight way were still "tagged" with a trace from the original mammary cell.

        Regarding other stem cells, bone marrow stem cells are in fact quite active through a

        • I stand corrected. (Yeah, I'm one of the less common posters who admits to being human! :) Oh, I absolutely agree that foetal development isn't fast - I guess I've tended to assume that actual damage that can't readily repair itself will tend to be a very small part of the problem, that by clearing out such damage will enable the rest to repair itself, leaving only a very small region that actually needs major intervention. I've also tended to assume that there would, of course, be some sort of temporary "p
    • by Doctor Beavis ( 571080 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:58PM (#15658098)
      You are exactly right that aging can have a profound effect on stem cells. There is a wealth of data that suggests decrements in function and plasticity with increased age and comorbid conditions such as alcohol use, diabetes, or renal failure in the donor (see Dimmeler in JACC, 2002 and Rauscher in Circulation, 2003 for more details). A Chinese group studied the biological characteristics of human bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells from donors of different ages and found that the expansion ability and cytokine production of cells was lowest in cells from donors over the age of 40 (sorry, don't have the reference handy). Multiple other groups have also demonstrated decreased proliferation in cells derived from older donors and proliferation capacity appears to be inversely correlated with telomere length. Differentiation capacity of mesenchymal stem cells from older donors has been shown to be decreased in multiple studies, with some reports measuring a decrement as soon as 40 years of age.

      A lot of people who would stand to benefit the most from "stem cells" (older, more medical problems) therefore are also disproportionately likely to have fewer cells with less regenerative capacity. One potential solution is to get cells from other people. A key problem with most adult cells (received from other adults) is the risk of immunologic rejection. This is likely to be much less of a problem with embryonic-derived cells, which don't express as many immunologically pertinent proteins. We just don't know what the best cell type will be - yet another reason to study both cell types in parallel.

  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:08PM (#15657576)
    I have tried injecting rose, tulip and daffodil stem cells and my health has not improved one iota. I do smell a lot better though as a result.
  • by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot@spamgoe ... g ['.ca' in gap]> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:13PM (#15657590) Homepage
    I see that totipotent stem cells (the best kind) are produced from the fusion of an egg and a sperm. It's a shame it requires an egg too - otherwise, I think I know how we at Slashdot could provide the world with an un-interuptable supply.
  • Now's as good as a time as ever to register as a marrow donor [marrow.org], and very likely save a life in the process.

    After being presented with this opportunity, I was unable to formulate any argument in my mind not to do this. Marrow donations require a very specific genetic match, and chances are that if someone requires a marrow donation, their life depends on it.

    Seriously folks, if you're eligible to do so, please register to be a marrow donor, and donate blood as often as you can. What goes around comes around.
  • This is a kick ass week! First I hear someone in Canada has found a way to regenerate teeth. Now those whooozers have figured out how to fix heart problems. Heck. If it wernt fer Canada I'd have to stop smoking and brush my tooth. Anyone hear anything about them doing research on livers?

The IBM purchase of ROLM gives new meaning to the term "twisted pair". -- Howard Anderson, "Yankee Group"

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