Regenerative Medicine

This week I came across a clinical trial that is being done at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. It is a stem cell study using, not embryonic stem cells, but adult stem cells derived from a person's own bone marrow in patients with advanced macular degeneration.

Meanwhile, I have also been reading The Stem Cell Dilemma: The Scientific Breakthroughs, Ethical Concerns, Political Tensions, and Hope Surrounding Stem Cell Research. (Second Edition)

According to the author, Dr. Leo Furcht,"Stem cells will change the practice of medicine forever." Dr. Furcht goes on to explain that, "We need to know what stem cells are and how they work. We need to know whether and when it's right to use them and how to regulate that use."

A basic understanding of where stem cells come from is a good place to start. Basically there are two types of stem cells - embryonic and adult stem cells.

Embryonic Stem Cells

Here is a definition of embryonic stem cells from the National Institute of Health:

"Embryonic stem (ES) cells are derived from the earliest stages of embryonic development and give rise to all the different types of cells found throughout the organism as it grows and matures. They are therefore characterized as “pluripotent.” Pluripotent stem cells have the advantage that they can make any cell type. The downside is they can form tumors of mature cells types (teratomas) unless they are forced to become other specific stem or progenitor cells."

These embryonic stem cells come from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in-vitro. In Vitro fertilization clinics donate the embryos for research purposes after informed consent from the donors.

Adult Stem Cells

Here is the definition of adult stem cells from the National Institute of Health:

"Adult stem cells are termed “multipotent” — they can produce all the functional cell types found within the tissue from which they are derived. For example, in mammals, hematopoietic (blood) stem cells are responsible for the constant renewal of the various types of blood and immune system cells; neural (brain) stem cells are capable of becoming the neurons or glial cells comprising the central nervous system; mesenchymal (skeletal) stem cells are able to form bone, cartilage and the stromal cells found in bone marrow."

Adult stem cells from bone marrow have been used in transplants for 40 years.

Autologous or Allogeneic

The two main types of bone marrow transplants are autologous and the other is allogeneic. Auto means "self". If someone has an autologous bone marrow transplant - the stem cells come from the patient's own bone marrow. Allogeneic means "other." Someone who has an allogeneic bone marrow transplant, receives the stem cells from another person who is a well matched donor.

The stem cell study being done in Brazil is an autologous transplant using stem cells derived from the patient's own bone marrow.

The other stem cell study for macular degeneration is being done using embryonic stem cells. However, the research company uses a proprietary technique that removes a single cell from the embryo leaving it intact with the ability to develop normally.

Find out about what Phase these macular degeneration studies are in, who is eligible to participate, and what progress has been reported so far:

Macular Degeneration and Stem Cells

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Thanks for your help! Leslie

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Leslie Degner, RN, BSN

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