LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE
Professor Doris Taylor, the "mother" of adult stem cell research, has pulled off her second miracle less than a decade after her first.
While at Duke University in 1998, she and her team fed young rats bad diets, causing heart disease, then she gave them stem cells from healthy young rats and the heart disease was substantially reduced. This led to worldwide animal studies in 1999, and, amazingly, human clinical trials in 2001 and 2002, which led to thousands of heart patients the world over now leading better and longer lives, thanks to the patients' own adult stem cells.
Now at University of Minnesota, her current team pulled off another miracle. Here is an interview from Canadian doctors working in the same field, which is making new tissue from adult stem cells, only THIS time, Prof. Taylor showed that and ENTIRE NEW HEART is possible and can someday replace the need for heart transplants. But before then, smaller items, such as heart valves and scar tissue will be possible.
"Canadian heart experts say new American research has brought us closer to a time when Star Trek-style replicators will be able to create human organs from thin air. Experts at the University of Minnesota have regrown a rat heart and brought it back to life, and Dr. Jason Dyck and Dr. John Mullen of the Mazankowski Heart Institute (Edmonton Canada) are calling it some of the most exciting news to hit the scientific world in years.
This new research means that one day we could grow a new human valve from the patient's own cells. It would last even longer and there would be essentially no risk of rejection."
He said re-cellularization research is 15 to 20 years away from clinical applications and is especially promising for transplants.
"The number of people who need heart transplants far exceeds the number of hearts available. The ultimate goal of this type of research would be to grow entirely new organs for people."
Until then, such research is more likely to foster smaller applications, such as making new tissue patches.
"You could see surgeons replacing scar tissue on an organ like the heart with actual cells that beat and grow into heart muscle tissue.
"The prospects are thrilling. We'll be keeping a close eye on the research."
Meanwhile, in the field of embryonics, the "miracle of the month" press release was the cloning of an embryonic executive. As with all embryonic miracles, it did nothing to bring treatments of diseased humans any closer, which some say is never.
STEM CELL STORY OF THE YEAR 2007:
‚“The Stem Cell Wars Are Over!‚
By Don Margolis,
Founder, S.A.I.L. NOW
Jamie Thomson, the father of embryonic research since he isolated the first line of embryonic stem cells in 1998, recently discovered, along with a Japanese associate, a method of creating faux-embryonic stem cells from adult skin cells, as announced in November 2007.
Virtually all of the stem cell writers in America declared the stem cell wars were over. ‚“We can make embryonic stem cells from skin, so there are no moral issues!‚ they exclaimed. As is normal for embryonic publicists, they were years premature. We are no closer to real cures for real humans than we were before the new miracle. Embryonic cures cannot sail, this decade or next.
On the day after the big press release, I wrote that the Thomson announcement was a non-event; only that the embryonic movement needed its ‚“miracle press release of the month,‚ and Thomson gave them one, inadvertently I am sure, since Thomson has never been anything but an honest man of science. His level-headed statement on the so-called miracle is refreshing when compared to the cheerleaders: "I believe these new results, while they do not eliminate that controversy, is probably the beginning of the end of that controversy," Thompson said. ''Even though we have this nice new source of cells, it doesn't solve all the downstream problems of getting them into the body in useful form.‚ Now you know why I respect the good doctor as much as I do.
You see, I look at embryonic stem cells from one perspective only: ‚“Does this advance in knowledge bring the treatment of incurable diseases by implanting embryonic stem cells one step closer to mankind.‚ In this case, the answer is a resounding ‚“NO!‚
Let us take a look from the real world of science rather than the science fiction world of the embryonic cheerleaders.
The majority of these cheerleaders in America do not know that embryonic cells come from cancer cells and those cancer cells come along with embryonic stem cells in every lab in the world; witnessed by the tumor growth generated among the animal subjects in the animal trials..... a major obstacle that must be overcome before an ESC can be implanted into a human being. The reason they don't know it is that the word ‚“cancer‚ has been prohibited from being mentioned in association with ‚“embryonic‚ in virtually every newspaper and medical journal in the land.
But the movement's censors could not keep the word ‚“cancer‚ out of the Thomson promotion, since Thomson put it in himself, as did his colleague Dr.Yamanaka and other quoted serious researchers. The same thing happened in 2006 when an honest embryonic researcher at the University of Rochester, after his team virtually cured his lab animals of Parkinson's, was forced to watch as those doomed animals all developed tumors. ‚“Cancer‚ appeared in the reporting medical journal and the spin doctors were forced to use it in the newspapers. The researcher was brutally honest about the events, which is why the Washington Post refused to print his most damning quotes and why the censors are still doing their best to keep ‚“cancer‚ and ‚“embryonic‚ from appearing in the same newspaper articles. You won't find it in USA medical journals either, unless the reported event screams it out, as it did in Rochester.
That, and Thomson's efforts to keep the truth in view (not an easy task in America, even for him) was the clue that convinced me this whole ‚“miracle‚ was virtually meaningless as to the only thing that matters: ‚“Where are the embryonic cures for human beings, or even animals, for that matter?‚ The answer is ‚“further away than they seemed to be in before the announcement---and that was real far away.‚ Over the intervening weeks, serious embryonic people started to realize the truth. Please note I am not saying the latest breakthrough isn't important, only that it does not bring embryonic implants into humans any closer.
As a comparison, let us look at the largest USA phase2 adult stem cell clinical trial for chronic heart disease. Baxter, a huge medical device corporation, is sponsoring that one, and they got FDA approval in 2004. They hope to finish phase two in 2010, installing one of America's leading stem cell heart researchers, Dr. Douglas Losordo, to run it. If they stay lucky (with Losordo in charge, I'm betting ‚“yes‚) they will get FDA approval in 2010 for phase3. Another two years would be a minimum to complete it. Again, if their luck holds up, they could get final approval for general useby 2013, nine years after their 2004 phase1 approval.
Add to the calculation the fact that adult stem cells do not carry cancer and also that Baxter's stem cells come from the individual patient so there is zero risk of rejection by the patient's immune system. That makes Dr. Losordo's job ‚“easy.‚ Easy = 9 years of FDA trials!
Now let's look at ‚“not-so-easy,‚ in fact at something so complicated, no one yet knows what all the traps down the road may bring. In a word, let's take a closer look at EMBRYONICS than you will ever get in any American medical journal; nor in the giants of pro-embryonic liberal print media in NY, WashDC and LA; nor from any of the 80% of politically (but not scientifically) correct academic institutions to which most scientists are connected.
FIRST, Thomson and friends must confirm their findings, meaning that some other research group must duplicate them elsewhere; and the consensus seems to be a year or two. Merely SOP in science, no argument there.
SECOND, researchers must conquer the cancer issue if they even dream of the FDA considering an embryonic stem cell trial. Conquering that embryonic cancer cell has proved impossible to overcome during the decade since Thomson's initial discovery and no one is even claiming serious progress. They like to blame their failings on Bush, but this ignores thousands of researchers working around-the-clock around the world, mostly in countries with government funding and NO government restrictions. The manipulations of the pro-embryonic media prove how desperate they are to keep that information from their readers, the majority of whom are ‚“true-believers.‚ Their readers, overwhelming pro-embryonic, have no idea that cancer is even a problem, let alone that nobody, not even Thomson with his latest triumph, has yet come up with a way to avoid it.
THIRD, they must conquer the rejection problem, a problem ‚“solved‚ by transplant cardiologists who have no choice but to permanently compromise the dying heart patient's immune system to prevent rejection of the new healthy heart. Permanently compromising the patient's immune system is NOT an option for embryonic researchers.
FOURTH. The availability of embryos for research, Bush or no Bush, is a problem. Without a doubt, the cost of research embryos adds to the already super-high cost of embryonic research. For a complete report on this issue from the Rand thinktank, click here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9038/index1.html
FIFTH, and this will come as a shock to those who closely follow the movement, is that the only bragging point of embryonics is that their cells are ‚“pluripotent,‚ which means they can presumably become any cell in the human body, and therefore help any part of the body get better. Some are beginning to realize what I said in 2006: ‚“Pluripotentcy is a two edged-sword.‚
The best researchers in the world, on five continents, all know that science cannot begin to control the embryonic stem cell's ability and desire to become whatever it darn well pleases. Good embryonic researchers can train their cells to significantly help patients with many different diseases, but once the cells are finished doing that, off they go, wherever and whenever and however they wish and that ‚“however‚ too often results in tumors. In two words, as of the beginning of 2008, embryonic stem cells are unstable and unpredictable. The Curse of the Pluripotent! But read on: it gets worse.
Put it all together.
2010: They confirm Thomson's skin cell miracle.
2012: They conquer the cancer and the rejection problems. I don't really believe just two years. However, I want to give them a best-case scenario, so I will also ignore the instability factor.
2013: FDA approves the first embryonic clinical trial.
2023: Ten years to get through three phases of clinical trials is the minimum under today's rules....using long-proven safe and stable adult stem cells. I doubt that ten years is possible for embryonics, given their instability and unpredictability, but let's use it.
Too many snippets are coming out of the real world of science to allow such an easy path to human treatment. The strange thing is that the leading embryonic scientists in America, but not the media giants, are actually pulling in their horns after the Thomson announcement!
First thing I noticed was the fear of the ‚“reprogramming‚ that Dr. Yamanaka used to revert the skin cells all the way back to embryonic cells. Embryonic stem cells are already unpredictable, and Yamanaka's method figures to raise the level of unpredictability. That makes them impossible to use on humans. That is not Don Margolis talking; this is from Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital Boston, who concludes:
"But for the ultimate goal of getting cells into a patient, it's a lot less clear. These cells may never be useful for direct therapy." Amen, Dr. Daley! For a guy who earns his living in embryonics, your honesty is refreshing!
Across town there is another embryonic research leader who is even more adamant than Dr. Daley. From Boston.com:
In what is even more of a lurking threat, the process uses retroviruses to carry the genes into cells. These viruses can disrupt the normal function of DNA and also can spur the birth of cancer cells.
Some proponents of reprogramming argue that problems from genetic modification and use of viruses are purely technical and easily surmountable. But other stem cell researchers are skeptical that reprogrammed cells or specialized cells produced from them will ever win approval for use in humans. "It will never be approved [by the FDA] to put these cells in a patient," said biologist Douglas A. Melton, co director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "The retrovirus can be a Trojan horse that can carry all sorts of problems." (Thanks to Boston.com)
What is astonishing about these quotes is that they both come from Boston, the hotbed of embryonic exaggeration and adult stem cell denigration. FYI, there is no bigger embryonic research center in the world than Harvard, and the only difference of opinion between Co-Director Melton and myself is that he believes that real embryonic cells can, someday soon, safely be put into a human being, and I do not. I repeat, only an opinion, on both our parts.
Yet, I am hopeful about the advances in embryonic stem cell research and the promise they hold for treating humans in the future. However, as you can see, those leading the research, especially Dr. Thomson and now Dr. Melton, understand and freely admit that there are still significant practical hurdles to overcome. In the meantime, adult stem cells offer a safe, proven alternative with the power to save and improve lives now; lives that are unreasonably being forced to remain hopeless, then being needlessly pushed to the grave, rather than to be treated with what works now.
Finally, the latest Thomson/Yamanaka achievement may have application to something other than the long-dismal hope of implanting still-poisonous embryonic stem cells into humans. Geneticists see now the real possibility of generating cell lines from the patient without using problem-filled ‚“nuclear transfer,‚ their only hope up to now. That will allow them to take those cells, specific to one sick patient, regress them back to the embryo stage, and study the difference between those sick cells and healthy embryonic cells of other people---a huge step in determining the cause of diseases.
More imminent, however, is using embryonic cells to "teach" adult cells how to do their jobs more efficiently. Doctors have already used this method to improve rates of cardio repair and regenesis and, so, far, no evidence of "tumorigenesis," which mean they have avoided the tumor trap and still used the power of the embryonic cells. Dr. Thomson, as always, my hat is off to you! Dr. Yamanaka, please don't stop here....keep moving forward.
Don Margolis started the world's first commercial company to actually treat and improve the lives of dying heart patients using adult stem cells, with about 200 successes to date. He is not a doctor, but a charter member of the American Academy of Actuaries. He is neutral on the issue of embryonic stem cell morality. He never mentions the subject and will not discuss it, believing that the debate itself does nothing but take the public's attention away from the only thing that matters; i.e. thousands of Americans are dying unnecessarily each month because of the senseless debate. His one and only mission is to ‚“S.A.I.L. NOW‚ (Save And Improve Lives NOW) with long-proven-safe adult stem cells, rather than in 2023, if then, using embryonic stem cells.
Don Margolis can be reached 24/7/365 at 1 (215) 764-6312