Tag Archives: stem cells

Placentas could be an important source of stem cells to fight disease

By Sandy Kleffman, Contra Costa Times

The human placenta could be an important source of stem cells for curing leukemia, sickle cell disease and other blood-related disorders, a new study reveals.

These stem cells appear to have distinct advantages over the techniques currently used to fight such diseases, and they may one day provide an alternative treatment for people who cannot find matching bone marrow donors, researchers said.

Scientists at Children’s Hospital Oakland obtained placentas from consenting women who had cesarean sections at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley.

They found that the placentas contained large numbers of blood-producing stem cells, which they were able to remove and grow in a cell culture.

“Yes, the potential is there,” said senior scientist Frans Kuypers. “Yes, you can get them out, and yes, they’re viable.”

One big advantage of such stem cells is that they do not require the perfect match needed for those who have bone marrow transplants, Kuypers said, because they do not trigger the same strong immune system response.

Today, scientists often seek to cure people who have leukemia and other blood-related disorders by giving them stem cell-rich bone marrow from donors who have closely matched tissue types. The transplanted bone marrow makes healthy blood cells to replace the faulty ones.

But if the donor has a different tissue type, the recipient’s body will not recognize the new cells and will attack them, leading to what is known as graft-versus-host disease.

The placental stem cells, like umbilical cord blood, “are much more tolerant with respect to matching,” Kuypers said.

The findings, which will appear in the July issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine, could represent especially good news for African-Americans, Asians and multiracial individuals, who often have difficulty obtaining compatible bone marrow donors.

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Stem cells put to test as treatment for diabetes

By Elizabeth Simpson, elizabeth.simpson@pilotonline.com, The Virginian-Pilot

Sarah Piscitelli had barely gotten used to the idea she had an incurable disease – diabetes – before she was sitting in a Norfolk clinic having an experimental solution infused into her vein.

Was the liquid – in an opaque IV bag so she couldn’t see it – a potent mixture of stem cells or a powerless placebo?

She won’t find out for two years, but what she does know is she’s part of a clinical trial that has the potential to change lives.

The 23-year-old Virginia Beach woman was older than the norm when she was diagnosed in February with Type 1 diabetes, the less common variety usually diagnosed in childhood.

The timing of Piscitelli’s diagnosis placed her in a position to enroll in a national clinical trial to see whether infusions of stem cells can kick-start her body’s ability to make insulin.

She’s one of 60 people across the country who will test the idea. If successful, it could eventually change the lives of people in the early stages of the disease. Some 30,000 a year are diagnosed with Type 1.

She received her third and last infusion at an Eastern Virginia Medical School clinic Friday. The amount of insulin she’s had to use each day since the first dose in April has dropped.

But here’s the rub:

Neither she nor the researchers will know whether she’s getting the real deal or a placebo until the end of the two-year study.

Does she need less insulin because she’s in the so-called “honeymoon” period that new diabetics often experience after starting insulin?

Or are stem cells doing the hoped-for job of rejuvenating her pancreas?

“My mom tells me to pretend it’s the real thing,” she said, “because positive thinking itself can help.”

The study is being conducted by a Maryland company called Osiris Therapeutics that is developing stem-cell therapy to treat ailments such as Crohn’s disease, arthritis and heart disease.

The injectable solution the company is testing – Prochymal – is made of stem cells from bone marrow donated by adults, not human embryos.

The Strelitz Diabetes Center at EVMS is one of 20 sites recruiting volunteers with Type 1 diabetes for the trial.

Dayna Buskirk, director of clinical development for Osiris Therapeutics, would not reveal how many of the 60 are enrolled so far, nor how much the study costs.

However, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has seen enough promise in the idea that it donated $2 million to the effort last June.

Typically, if such a trial shows good results, it would be followed by another phase that would involve a larger number of people at even more clinical sites.

In Type 1 diabetes, a person’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin controls blood sugar, and poorly controlled levels can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, amputations, kidney disease and nerve damage.

Stem cells have characteristics particularly promising in treating autoimmune diseases such as diabetes.

One, they have the ability to transform into any type of tissue without the body rejecting them, and two, they travel to sites of inflammation. Once they get there, they can prevent further damage and even repair tissue.

“They sense where in the body something is going wrong, and they move in to see what they can do,” said Dr. Aaron Vinik, the Strelitz center’s scientific director, who’s overseeing the local part of the study. “If they find inflammation, they can mend the process if it’s early enough. They’re like subterfuge cells. They get in under the tent flap, and the body doesn’t recognize them as foreign.”

The trick is to call in those cellular troops soon enough. If it’s too late, the insulin-producing cells have already been destroyed.

The study is looking for people who are within two to 16 weeks of diagnosis. The peak age for diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is 14, but because of consent and safety issues for still-developing children, the researchers are restricting this phase of the trial to adults 18 to 30.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.