Stem Cell Transplants Improve Survival for Some Leukemia Patients

By Carol Pearson, VOANews.com

Researchers say some leukemia patients can dramatically improve their survival rates if they have stem cell transplants. In fact, the researchers say the use of stem cells may result in a new standard treatment.

For two weeks Randall Burnham thought he had the flu. Instead it was a type of deadly leukemia.

“When I was diagnosed, I was actually so sick I didn’t really understand what was going on,” he said. “Afterwards, they said that I was within a couple of days of dying.”

Burnham was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia – a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that spreads so rapidly that unless a patient gets treatment, he usually has only a matter of months to live. Chemotherapy is used to put the patient into remission.

“In other words, the bone marrow and the blood have been restored to a normal looking state,” said Dr. John Koreth of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Koreth says chemotherapy does not kill every cancer cell. In some patients, the cancer recurs.

BURNHAM: “I noticed that a couple of days ago that I don’t feel as achey as I did before.”

KORETH: “Good.”

Dr. Koreth says a simple chromosome test shows whether the patient has a good, poor or intermediate chance of the acute myeloid leukemia returning.

For those with a good prognosis, chemotherapy alone may suffice. For patients with a poor outlook, chemotherapy plus a blood stem cell transplant from a donor is the usual treatment.

But there was no consensus on how to treat patients in the intermediate group who have almost a 50 percent chance of recurence.

“For intermediate risk, even the experts were stumped,” he added.

Dr. Koreth and other researchers analyzed data from two dozen studies. They noticed that healthy stem cells from a compatible donor helped boost the survival rates of patients who had intermediate risk. Randall Burnham found a good match.

“I had a sister with a perfect match to me,” explained Mr. Burnham. “And then a brother and another sister with slight deviations, so they took the sister that had the perfect match. So she was the one who donated the stem cells to me.”

Burnham has been in remission for two years after having the transplant. Dr. Koreth says the study may provide clear direction on how intermediate risk patients should be treated.

There are risks associated with the transplant procedure. Burnham takes extra precautions, such as wearing gloves and a mask, because he is more susceptible to infections and other side effects. But Dr. Koreth says the treatment’s benefits outweigh the risks.

The study has been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

ABMDR Opens Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan

From Asbarez.com

LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) recently unveiled its Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan with a grand opening celebration. The much-anticipated event was attended by scores of ABMDR donors, sponsors, patients, physicians, and special guests including VivaCell-MTS general manager Ralph Yirikian, a major supporter of the registry; Archbishop Tatev Sargsyan, who conveyed a special commendation from His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; ABMDR Advisory Board member Nani Oskanian; a representative from Armenia’s Ministry of Health; and a group of supporters from Los Angeles who had traveled to Armenia to take part in the celebration.

“The opening of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center was an extremely touching experience for every one of us,” said Dr. Sevak Avagyan, executive director of ABMDR Armenia. “While it was wonderful to be surrounded by so many friends, supporters, and colleagues, ultimately the most heartwarming sight was that of our patients and stem cell donors finding common ground in the new facility, where hope awaits those afflicted by life-threatening diseases.” Accordingly, Dr. Avagyan added, the honor of cutting the ribbon of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center was given to Mrs. Varduhi, the ABMDR’s latest bone marrow stem cell donor.

Zara in Post PCR loading (Small)Commenting on the opening of the center, Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of the ABMDR Board of Directors, said, “We’ve been working on this project for the past year, sparing no effort or resource for its realization.” After acquiring the facility, the ABMDR recruited top medical talent and began the arduous process of training personnel and securing medical machinery.

As Dr. Jordan explains, the project was made possible by a number of major corporate and individual donations, as well as grassroots support through the registry’s first-ever telethon, held on April 13 last year. With a total of $850,000 raised, the ABMDR was able to renovate the Stem Cell Harvesting Center site, equip it with state-of-the-art machinery, and continue to train personnel.

In 2006, the ABMDR’s HLA tissue-typing laboratory passed the inspection of the European Federation of Immunogenetics (EFI). In May this year, the laboratory passed the EFI’s second inspection “with flying colors,” paving the way for the future accreditation of the Stem Cell Harvesting Center itself.

The only one of its kind in the region, the ABMDR’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center can store and harvest stem cells provided by healthy bone marrow donors. The stem cells subsequently can be utilized in transplants for patients suffering from life-threatening blood-related diseases such as leukemia and other cancers. “It was absolutely critical to have a stem cell harvesting center in Armenia, since the majority of the ABMDR’s bone marrow stem cell donors are residents of the republic,” Dr. Jordan said. “Having this facility in the country means that local stem cell donors will be spared the often exorbitant expense and inconvenience of traveling abroad to donate their stem cells. The center is equipped with cutting-edge medical machinery that allows our staff to perform not only HLA tissue typing, stem cell harvesting, and cell storage, but autologous transplants as well. These latter procedures can be life-savers for cancer patients, as they restore the integrity and function of bone marrows damaged by chemotherapy.”

Click link above for complete article

Researchers plan trial for Lou Gehrig’s disease therapy

By Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune

The mice at the top of a column of stacked plastic bins at Q Therapeutics are shivering so hard they seem to be jumping.

Their nonstop shivering and seizures are caused by a genetic defect that robs the mice of the crucial myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells and helps them send signals. Because of the defect, the mice are soon paralyzed and die prematurely.

It is a related problem — loss of this myelin sheath — that in humans causes the progressive loss of function in multiple sclerosis and several other diseases that can cause paralysis in humans.

And that’s why what has happened to the mice is so promising: After being treated with an adult stem cell therapy developed at Q Therapeutics, they are no longer shivering.

The product, called Q-Cells, also may be applicable to such neurodegenerative diseases as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Now, the National Institutes of Health have awarded a $5 million grant to Q Therapeutics, the University of Utah’s Cell Therapy Facility and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which as a team has had success in animal models of ALS.

The funding will help support work needed to get permission from the Food and Drug Administration to start human clinical trials at Johns Hopkins. If efforts to raise additional funds are successful, those trials would begin next year.

“This type of therapy can bring about a major change in modern health care,” said Deborah Eppstein, CEO of Q Therapeutics. “It’s not just a little step. It’s a pole vault change, a going to the moon change.”

Click link above for complete article.

California Stem Cell Chief Seeks Trials in Four Years

By Rob Waters, Bloombeg.com

California’s $3 billion stem-cell funding agency wants to get 10 to 12 new therapies into human testing within four years, said the agency’s president, Alan Trounson.

In December, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine plans to award grants of about $20 million each to 10 or 12 teams, with the goal of starting clinical trials within four years, Trounson said today in an interview. Most or all of the teams will include biotechnology companies, he said.

The San Francisco-based institute, established by voters in 2004, is putting greater emphasis on advancing research from laboratory testing to patient trials, said Trounson. After years of stem cell research being conducted largely by academics, companies are deepening their investment in the field, he said. The agency eventually would like to draw in big pharmaceutical companies to help fund the research.

“Pharma is moving into this space in a big way,” Trounson said. “They’re now generally interested in cell therapy. That’s a big change.”

Trounson, a former academic and biotechnology executive who assumed leadership of the institute in January 2008, said he is talking to companies on a regular basis about setting up partnerships.

While the agency now funds some small companies to advance promising stem-cell therapies, Trounson said he is looking for ways to attract investment by larger companies to develop treatments. In the long run, the agency may try to use industry funding to continue operating once its $3 billion in state bond revenue is exhausted by the end of the next decade, he said.

Grants to Companies, Academics
In April, the agency awarded 15 “early translational” grants totaling $67.7 million. Two of the grants totaling $11.1 million went to companies. Most of the $761 million the institute has given out so far have gone to academic institutions such as Stanford University, the Scripps Institute and various campuses of the University of California.

A deepening budget crisis in California caused by a 27 percent drop in revenue over the past year hasn’t stopped bond sales for the agency, which currently has enough cash to last through 2011, Trounson said.

Trounson said the institute receives no funding from the state’s general fund.

“Cuts to us would be purely symbolic,” he said. “Our focus is to do something to help people in the community suffering from horrible diseases.”

Institute funding of new research facilities throughout the state has also stimulated the economy and created thousands of construction jobs, Trounson said.

Stem Cells from Teeth

Einstein On Stem Cell Research – video

PANEL DISCUSSION: Stem Cell Research & Diabetes: Realizing a Promise

At least 24 million American adults and children have diabetes and struggle with its many complications, including heart disease, amputation, and blindness. Scientists believe that stem cell research holds great promise in the quest for a cure for type 1 diabetes and provides a powerful tool for controlling type 2 diabetes.

In a panel discussion, leading stem cell scientists and patient advocates came together on April 29, 2009 to discuss the latest developments in stem cell research and diabetes. The discussion, organized by the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), was open to the public and drew several hundred people to The Times Center in Manhattan.

Panelists:
Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean of Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Dean Spiegel is the former director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes for Health (from 1996-2006). He is also a former vice chair (2005-2006) and member of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force (2002-2005) and has testified before the House and Senate on stem cell research. Dr. Spiegel provides an overview of the state of type 1 diabetes research from the perspective of a former NIDDK Director who helped shape the NIH research agenda.

Contact lens stem cell sight aid

From BBC.co.uk

Scientists have used stem cells grown onto contact lenses to improve the sight of people with cornea damage.

The treatment was given to three patients by a team from Australia’s University of New South Wales. All saw improvements within weeks.

They used the patients’ own stem cells in the treatment, detailed in the journal Transplantation, and a type of lens already used after eye surgery.

UK experts said the small-scale study was promising.

The cornea is the transparent layer that covers the eye – but it can lose transparency, damaging sight.

In the most serious cases, people can need cornea grafts or transplants.

Corneal disease can be caused by genetic disorders, surgery, burns, infections or chemotherapy.

In this study, all three patients had damage to the epithelium – the layer of cells covering the front of the cornea.

Eye cells
The researchers in this study used limbal stem cells – found within the eye.

Stem cells are “master cells”, which have the power to transform themselves into other cell types.

The cells can be taken from any healthy part of the eye and, because they are from the patient’s own body, the transplant will not be rejected.

They removed small samples of stem cells from the eyes of the three patients – two men and a woman – and grew them on contact lenses.

The patients then wore the lenses for 10 days.

During that period, the stem cells moved off the lenses and onto the damaged corneas.

The patients were followed up for between eight and 13 months.

Click link above for complete article.

Stem cells hold promise in treating retinal degeneration

From Louisville.edu

A team of University of Louisville scientists have discovered that stem cells taken from bone marrow can restore damaged retinal tissue by generating new cells. This is the first known study where stem cells derived from bone marrow have been used to restore the pigmented cell layer just outside the retina or the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE).

The research moves science a step closer to helping those who suffer from vision loss and blindness due to age-related macular degeneration and hereditary retinal degenerations.

During their experiments, UofL researchers found that bone-marrow derived stem cells (BMSCs) were attracted to damaged RPE, and were able to differentiate or move from less specialized cells into components of RPE.

According to researcher Suzanne Ildstad, “More research is needed to optimize the outcome and potential for repair of damaged retinal pigment epithelium. A combination with up-to-date tissue engineering might be critical for ultimate success.”

UofL Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences researcher Henry Kaplan is now expanding this research in conjunction with the Swine Institute at the University of Missouri. Kaplan says pigs have more optical similarities to humans.

“After learning more about how bone-marrow derived stem cells can help regenerate retinal pigment epithelium in swine, we hope to translate our research into the clinical setting,” Kaplan said.

This research has implications for a number of chronic diseases including congestive heart failure, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, spinal cord injuries, age-related macular degeneration and hereditary retinal degenerations.

Age-related macular degeneration affects 10 percent to 20 percent of people over the age of 65 years old. Hereditary retinal degeneration is another leading cause of blindness and typically involves an onset of night blindness, an early loss of peripheral vision and late loss of central vision.

The study, published recently in the Archives of Ophthalmology, is available online at archopht.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/127/4/563.

Free E-book Download

Emerging Technology Platforms for Stem Cells is available as a free download from ebook-share.net

This book focuses on practical applications for using adult and embryonic stem cells in the pharmaceutical development process. It emphasizes new technologies to help overcome the bottlenecks in developing stem cells as therapeutic agents. A key reference for professionals working in stem cell science, it presents the general principles and methodologies in stem cell research and covers topics such as derivitization and characterization of stem cells, stem cell culture and maintenance, stem cell engineering, applications of high-throughput screening, and stem cell genetic modification with their use for drug delivery.

Interact With Stem Cell Experts Live on brighttalk.com

WHAT: Stem Cell Summit hosted by BrightTALK™

At this free online summit, thought leaders present a series of webcasts sharing the latest innovations and breakthroughs in stem cell research and application.

These webcasts will feature live, interactive presentations by scientists, business leaders and academics addressing the latest discoveries in stem cell usage including reconstruction of the surface of the eye, research in embryonic stem cells, and delaying the onset of aging.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PDT (The webcasts will also be immediately recorded and viewable on-demand at brighttalk.com.)

TOPICS AND PRESENTERS:

“Reconstructing the Surface of the Eye Using Stem Cells” — Dr. Sajjad Ahmad, MRCOphth, PhD NESCI (UK)

“Beyond Embryonic Stem Cells” — Kenneth Aldrich, CEO, International Stem Cell Corporation

“Delaying the Onset of Aging via Rejuvenated Stem Cell Responses” — Professor Irina Conboy, PhD, UC Berkeley

WHERE: Summit program and registration is available on brighttalk.com: http://www.brighttalk.com/summit/stemcell

ADD WEB 2.0 CONTENT TO YOUR SITE: The summit can also be accessed (live and later on-demand) through the BrightTALK player, which can be embedded into any of your websites and blogs. For information on how to embed a player or to participate in future summits, contact Morgan Cantrell at (415) 955-0553 or mcantrell (at) brighttalk.com.

ABOUT BrightTALK:
BrightTALK is devoted to making webcasting the ultimate business tool for transferring knowledge. BrightTALK creates a vibrant exchange of ideas between presenters and viewers featuring live, interactive access to the world’s top thought leaders.