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Stem Cell Treatment for Heart Attacks Approved in South Korea

south kora stem cells

South Korean Scientist

South Korean Stem Cell Program Scores a Victory – Five years have already passed since scandal rocked the South Korean stem cell research program. (This, of course, when professor Hwang Woo-Suk was publicly disgraced after being found guilt of fraud and embezzlement after fabricating the results of his stem cell research.)

And on this five year anniversary, South Korea has not only secured the 2018 Winter Olympics, but has also gained approval from their Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) for a stem cell medication intended for heart attack victims.

Stem Cell Heart Medication Approved

Heart Stem Cells

The approval is significant not only for this peticular medication, but according to Oh Il-hwan (professor of molecular biology at the Catholic University School of Medicine in Seoul) represents “the government opening the road for progressive development in stem cell research.”

The Korean Food & Drug Administration said that it had completed the procedures needed to authorize the sale of Hearticellgram-AMI, a stem cell medication for acute myocardial infarction. read full article

Jon Huntsman & Tim Pawlenty Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research

jon huntsman tim pawlenty

jon huntsman and tim pawlenty

Jon Huntsman & Tim Pawlenty Oppose Embryonic Stem Cell Research – Two Republican presidential candidates Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty confirmed recently that they maintain a position against embryonic stem cell research.

Comments by Huntsman made in 2004 seemed to show his support for embryonic stem cell research, as he was quoted in a newspaper as saying that the stem cell issue was one in which he the pro-life group Eagle Forum disagreed, saying of the conservative group, “Stem cell research would be another issue on which we part company.”

Though previously the governor of a conservative state, and looking to win the support of the conservative (and often anti-stem cell research) Republican Party, Huntsman finds him self in an interesting position, as his father founded the Huntsman Cancer Institute, which publicly advocates the use of embryonic stem cells in cancer research.

Former Minnesota Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty also confirmed his pro-life, anti embryonic stem cell research (irony?) position during the first Republican debate.

Here is Pawlenty’s full quote from the Republican debate: “As to stem cell research it holds great promise and I support stem cell research. I think it should be adult derived… most of the therapies and breakthroughs that we are seeing interms of treatment are coming from adult derived stem cell research. I strongly support that.

As for embryonic stem cell research, I don’t think we should pursue although President Bush when he was in office said he would allow and authorize the use of research on certain stem cell lines for which the embryo had already previously been destroyed before the issue came to his desk or came to his attention. I did support his approach for that limited window of stem cell research on those existing lines for which the embryo had already been destroyed.”

Most of the other candidates have focused their talking points to Planned Parenthood and abortion, and have yet to directly address their position on the use of embryonic stem cells.

Jon Huntsman Stem CellsTim Pawlenty Stem Cells

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Can Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart?

mouse heart stem cell

Stem Cell from Mouse Heart

Can Stem Cells Heal a Broken Heart? At University College in London, scientists are optimistic about a new procedure that could help the heart heal itself after a heart attack.

The discover focuses on a newly identified source of dormant stem cells in the epicardium, a layer of the sac surrounding the heart. They found that a naturally occurring peptide called “thymosin beta-4” could stimulate these dormant stem cells, causing them to repair damage to the heart.

So far the treatment has shown promise in tests on mice, with the mice receiving injections of thymosin beta-4 regrowing more heart muscle from their own stem cells than the mice who didn’t.

If further research goes well, scientists envision that a pill could be developed that contains the thymosin beta-4 protein. This pill could be given to patients at risk of a heart attack or suffering from unstable angina (a form of chest pain that results from the heart not receiving enough oxygen) to help them better recover from a possible heart attack in the future. Read the full story

Stem Cells and Heart Attacks

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Cord blood Stem Cells

Cord Blood Stem Cells

Stem Cells from Cord Blood – In the New Scientist, the question was posed: “should parents pay to have their child’s cord blood stored or instead donate it to a public cord blood bank?” My answer:

“If the couple already has a child with a life-threatening blood cancer, then banking the cord blood of a healthy newborn sibling is a fine idea, because that blood could save the older child’s life.”

Blood cancers are rare. In fact, a child has only between one in 1,000 and one in 200,000 chance of needing an infusion of his or her own cord blood later in life. The bigger promise advertised by some private banksbettertogive1.gif pivots on the supposed power of cord blood to cure common illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Some advertisements claim future cures for all of these, and may even be used to grow new body parts.

But wait a minute:

“Cord stem cells are scarce, and therefore not useful for most adults, who need large numbers of cells for transplants. Some assert that cord stem cells are powerful because they ignore their bloodline heritage and change into a multiplicity of cell types, including heart muscle and brain tissue. But this is hotly contested, and researchers are slugging it out experimentally, testing whether cord stem cells are as potent as the more optimistic scientists and cord blood banking companies claim.”

I argued that some claims about the therapeutic potential of cord blood were overstated, and that it was wrong to advertise that cures or treatments for complex diseases using cord blood were right around the corner.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has issued ethical guidelines for how physicians should talk to parents about donating their babies’ umbilical cord blood. The vote was clear: mothers should be encouraged to give the blood to public cord blood banks. The guidelines also suggest that doctors obtain the consent to donate before the mother goes into labor, disclose any ties they have to a cord blood bank, and not accept fees for a cord bank referral. In January, the Academy of Pediatrics said parents should consider private storage only if an older sibling has cancer or certain genetic diseases that can be successfully treated with cord blood.

Cord stem cells are powerful: I’ll explain in future posts what science says about the cells, and how research is trying to sort out how these cells can treat disease.

During the holiday season, the spirit of giving in hospitals should take another form. Parents can donate blood to public banks. That would increase the likelihood that a desperately sick child or adult would benefit.

Stem Cells & Cancer

Cancer stem cells

More than ten years into the 21st Century, cancer continues to be the #1 cause of death worldwide. Although therapeutic response rates and time to progression have dramatically improved, long-term survival has not changed for most, if not all, solid tumors such as those of the lung, breast, and colon. Past decades of cancer research and drug development have largely considered all tumor cells equal in status and potential for harm.

This is no longer the case, as rare sub-populations of tumor cells are being identified as responsible for fueling tumor growth. These cancer stem cells (CSC) appear more resistant to chemotherapy and radiation than most cells within the tumor, explaining why tumor regression following such therapies is so common. Furthermore, because newer therapies composed of antibodies or small molecules have been developed against bulk tumor cells and not the CSC population, it is unlikely that cures for cancer will be imminent until the scope of attention is focused on the CSC population itself.

Normal stem cells serve to support tissue growth and maintenance over the lifetime of an individual. Cancer stem cells, on the other hand, appear to be black sheep of the stem cell family and best resemble a normal tissue-specific stem cell gone awry. Although normal cells are generated, the growth rate and cell organization are highly abnormal because the CSC parents are generating too many offspring; ultimately resulting in masses of dysfunctional tissue. Because CSC have been differentiated from the majority of cells within a tumor that can be likened to branches of a tree, novel therapies with better efficacy will likely be aimed at the roots of the tumor (i.e. CSC). Realistically, the next generation of cancer therapies will target molecules on the cell surface, or within the cell, that CSC utilize to proliferate or survive as long-lived stem cells. Ideally, these therapeutic targets will not be expressed on normal stem cells such that there will be little damage to normal tissue.

Yet, the identification, isolation, and experimental manipulation of CSC from solid tumors poses major obstacles. As might be imagined, ripping cells away from their neighbors, upon which they are largely dependent, is no easy task. Developing assays that further allow CSC manipulation to learn about their biology is even more difficult. I’m often asked when there will be a “cure for cancer.” My answer is often that the term cancer encompasses many diseases and the war will be won in a progression of smaller battles. I am encouraged by my daily work with CSC that commonalities can be exploited to vastly improve not only treatment, but detection of cancer at earlier stages where therapies may be most beneficial.

Stem Cells & Cancer