Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Buzz on Stem Cells

This topic is just too broad and ever-changing to just make a quick post! The research and advancements made in the area of stem cells is nearly impossible to keep up-to-date with!

September 23rd was Stem Cell Awareness day. I had every intention of posting some wonderful advancements in stem cells, and how they relate to hydranencephaly as well as other neurological disorders, on that day... but it just didn't happen for me. Instead I've spent a better majority of the past month catching up on the advancements and research that I have missed in the course of the past year since I first became interested in the topic.

I have previously posted on my support of stem cell research, meeting much controversy with my opinions, yet I continue to be amazed at the new advances happening daily in the world of stem cells. Now that I'm back on the blogging wagon with regular posts, expect more on this topic!

"Every family knows they are one phone call or one diagnosis away from needing what stem cell research can yield for us." 
~Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives

That statement couldn't be more true, and I wish that everyone understood the power that stem cells possess, the power to cure millions of people with an array of debilitating conditions.

There are many sides to the ethical battle surrounding stem cells, however the truth is they are powerful healers... and without the research needed to understand these healers in a more profound way, we cannot properly utilize them in any sort of ethical way to promote great healing. Since hydranencephaly shares many of it's symptoms with the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, here is an example of what stem cells are doing for the CP community:

XCell-Center Presents Positive Results from Cerebral Palsy Stem Cell Treatment
The XCell-Center, Europe's leading stem cell therapy provider has released results from a follow-up study of 45 cerebral palsy patients treated with autologous bone marrow stem cells. Overall, 67% improved following treatment.These results support the premise that patients with cerebral palsy can be treated safely and effectively with autologous stem cell therapy.

The most common improvement reported by patients was improved hand and finger coordination that resulted in better hand use. A majority of patients reported less upper limb spasticity.

"Not long after the treatment, our son started speaking in full sentences. His fine motor skills have improved and he can now hold his fork and eat without help," said Mrs. Ritu Giacobbe, the mother of a 13 year-old boy who was treated at the XCell-Center one year ago.

Leg and foot coordination improved in nearly half of the patients. Approximately 4 in 10 had reduced lower limb spasticity. 20% were able to walk better.Speech improved in about 40% of patients. 1 in 5 showed improved cognition.

In a story published in this week's Denver Post,"Looking Up Now", the mothers of two boys recently treated at the XCell-Center, Dominic and Harrison, expressed their delight at the progress their sons have made since returning home. "For Dominic, the most significant improvement has been his ability to focus his eyes," his mom said. The Post article also quotes Harrison's mom, "Some of the milestones are significant -- Harrison can roll himself over now. He holds his head up without his chin sinking into his chest. His speech is clearer."

"These results confirm what we see in Germany on a weekly basis; that treating patients with their own stem cell yields positive results. Many of these children require less care and are now more independent. And this positively impacts the quality of life of the children and their caregivers. We couldn't be more delighted," stated Dr. Ute Tamaschke, the XCell-Center's pediatric neurosurgeon.The treatment begins by collecting a small amount bone marrow from the patient's hip via thin needle mini-puncture. The stem cells are separated from the bone marrow at the XCell-Center's EU certified cGMP laboratory, where they are counted and their vitality is confirmed. The last step consists of inserting a fine spinal needle between the patient's L4 and L5 vertebrae and injecting the stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid which flows into the brain.

Regardless of your ethical stance on stem cells, please take the time to educate yourselves in the possibilities that exist because of this wonderful research. One day it could be the miracle cure that you, yourself will need! If not yourself, someone you my case, my son and his many friends across the globe.

Future research and regenerative medicine
By defining the properties of stem cells that regenerate complex body parts, scientists are learning how injury causes these stem cells to regenerate the missing part instead of just forming scar tissue. Future research may make it possible to apply this knowledge in new kinds of medical treatments.

Pluripotent stem cells
How similar are the pluripotent stem cells of the planarian to mammalian embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells? By studying the planarian, maybe we will gain insight into how to control human embryonic stem cells to replace parts of our own bodies.

Tissue stem cells
Salamanders and frogs use tissue stem cells that may be much like our own, so why can they regenerate a whole limb whereas we form scars? Ongoing research indicates that regenerative animals keep a kind of map inside their adult tissues, telling cells where they are and what they should be. Parts of this map may have been lost in mammals, or perhaps our stem cells have lost the ability to read the map. Researchers hope to find out what exactly is missing or blocked in mammals, and whether such information can be restored to direct stem cells to take part in regeneration for medical applications.

Differentiated cells
Can we make adult, differentiated cells like heart muscle cells start dividing again, as in the zebrafish? It will be important to find out why mammalian heart cells lose this ability, and if it can be restored.

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