Friday, February 04, 2005

Stem Cell Update: Adult Stem Cell Pluripotency?

There have been some recent updates in the world of adult stem cells and their usefulness. The issue of pluripotency is being addressed by researchers in their use of adult stem cells (thanks to Catez for the clarification on pluripotency and its importance to this issue!). Pluripotency is the ability of a stem cell to morph into other kinds of cells and thus have a wider array of applications. It has been thought from the beginning that embryonic stem cells have a (possibly) universal pluripotency, while adult stem cells have little to none. If it could be shown that adult stem cells taken from, say, a spinal cord, could be used to treat various kinds of tissues, it would be quite a breakthrough for its usage.

Such things are beginning to take place. From the
Boston Herald, we get this information:

In the Hub study, researchers extracted stem cells from human bone marrow and transplanted them into damaged rat hearts.

``We found that adult human bone marrow contains cells that are capable of differentiating into muscle cells and cells that form new blood vessels, which are the two principle things that are damaged during heart attack,'' Losordo said.

There is a degree of hesitation at this point from some circles:

One stem-cell researcher who reviewed the findings, published in yesterday's issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, said he's not ``convinced that it is a bona fide stem cell.''
``I don't think it's a huge breakthrough,'' said Dr. Evan Snyder…

A couple of days later from Catholic World News, we get a more positive assessment of the experiment:

A type of adult stem cell has been isolated from bone marrow that shows all the characteristics of human embryonic stem cells. A team of researchers at Boston's Tufts University have found cells that come from adult donors that can change into many, if not all, of the different types of tissue in the human body. It was previously thought that only embryonic cells could produce these.

Given the advances of adult stem cell therapy (along with how far it may still need to go) combined with the ethical black holes involved with embryonic stem cell research, it is good to read lines like this from time to time:

Tufts cardiologist Dr. Douglas W. Losordo said, "I think embryonic stem cells are going to fade in the rearview mirror of adult stem cells." He said that bone marrow "is like a repair kit. Nature provided us with these tools to repair organ damage."

As always, blogicus is a great source for this information and a lot of the up-to-date findings.