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|Stem Cell Research
E-Newsletter No. 22
I. Researchers Transform Human Fat Into Bone, Muscle and Cartilage.
· Scientists at UCLA
and the University of Pittsburgh have isolated fat as the first practical, plentiful and
economic source of stem cells used to grow a variety of human tissues in the laboratory.
· Previously, stem
cells for tissue engineering research had been harvested from bone marrow, brain, and
fetal tissue, limited sources that pose a variety of logistical and ethical challenges.
· Until now,
researchers had not identified a good source of stem cells, which can be thought of as the
building blocks of tissue engineering.
· The availability
of the plentiful source of stem cells will accelerate development of new procedures for
repairing and replacing damaged, dead, or missing tissue in humans.
· The findings of
this new research (detailed in the April 2001 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Tissue
Engineering) indicate that fat is perhaps the ideal source of stem cells. There is an
abundant supply; it is easy and inexpensive to obtain.
· This discovery
could render the controversial use of fetal tissue obsolete.
· Immature and
unspecified, stem cells are key contributors to the bodys ability to renew and
repair its own tissues. They are unique in their ability to mature into two or more
different types of specific cells, depending on their environment.
· Researchers grow
different tissues in the laboratory by manipulating stem cell environments.
· Stem cells are
already used as a treatment for leukemia and some joint repairs.
· With fat as a
plentiful source of stem cells, researchers may be able to accelerate the pace of
overcoming obstacles that prevent broader applications. These challenges include finding
ways to supply blood to larger tissues, control growth and maturation, and eliminate
· Researchers expect
the first practical uses for laboratory-grown tissues to enter the medical marketplace
within the next five years or so. In the future, there is the potential for regenerating
several different tissues including solid organs, glands, nerves or brain tissue.
Physicians Perform First Skeletal Muscle Cell Transplant Into The Heart During Bypass
Surgery in The Unites States.
· This experimental
cell transplant procedure utilizing skeletal muscle cells may improve heart function
without the risk of rejection, preclude the need for heart transplants in the future for
· If this procedure
is effective, it could eventually be used on most of the 40,000 Americans who suffer from
severe heart failure. Most such patients are on a waiting list for heart transplants, but
only about 3,000 donor hearts become available each year.
· Heart cells do not
regenerate so damage to the heart has been considered permanent. Skeletal muscle cells may
help repair the heart muscle and improve cardiac function.
· The first patient
to receive this experimental procedure in the United States was treated at UCLA Medical
Center. This patient, a 65 year old male, had suffered three prior heart attacks, and had
severe heart muscle dysfunction.
· UCLA physicians
will continue to monitor how the muscle cells react and check this patients heart
function for 24 months following the surgery.
· The technique has
worked in animal studies and in safety trials in a small number of human patients.
· UCLA surgeons
injected the muscle cells into the damaged area of the heart of this patients heart
during the course of his bypass surgery.
· Skeletal muscle
stem cells can be harvested through a simple biopsy in the leg or arm prior to a patients
bypass surgery. The cells are cultured in the laboratory for ten to 12 days and then
transplanted into the damaged area of the heart at the same time the patient undergoes
heart bypass surgery.
· Myoblast cells are
muscle cells that can divide. The advantage that they provide with this particular
application is their ease of use, and the lack of ethical or practical issues (when
compared to fetal tissue stem cells.) Additionally, rejection of the myoblast cells, grown
from the patients own muscle, is not a problem.
Jefferson Medical College have converted adult human bone marrow stem cells into adult
brain cells. By experimenting with different combinations of growth factors and other
nutrients, the investigators found a mixture of reagents that converted 100% of cells
within an hour. Not only do the converted cells look like neurons but they also contain
neuronal proteins, say the investigators. The goal [of the work] is to find stem
cells that we can differentiate into dopamine neurons to replace those lost in Parkinsons
disease, said Lorraine Iacovitti, Ph.D. The hope is that we wont have to
use embryonic stem cells and aborted fetuses for stem cell lines. The teams
findings were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Neuroscience.
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