February 23, 2009 | David F. Coppedge

Adult Stem Cells, +2; Embryonic Stem Cells, -1

Two more successes were chalked up for adult stem cell therapies recently.  Science Daily said that sufferers from Crohn’s disease may have a new treatment option by getting injections of their own bone marrow stem cells.  This “now constitutes a treatment option to cure an intestinal disease that sometimes does not successfully respond to drugs and requires highly complex surgery that does not provide a cure.”
    Those afflicted with type 2 diabetes also have hope, thanks to adult stem cells.  Science Daily also reported that progenitor cells exist in the adult pancreas.  “It is now clear that progenitor cells, with the capacity to become insulin producing cells, reside in the adult pancreas,” said researchers from UC San Diego and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research.  They found that the Wnt signaling pathway is implicated in the development of type 2 diabetes.  By understanding these protein-signaling pathways, they can begin to take their stem cell research toward therapeutic treatments.
    Not so good for embryonic stem cells.  Nature News reported, “Hybrid embryos fail to live up to stem-cell hopes.”  Heidi Ledford explained, “The creation of human-animal hybrid embryos – proposed as a way to generate embryonic stem cells without relying on scarce human eggs – has met with legislative hurdles and public outcry.  But a paper published this week suggests that the approach has another, more fundamental problem: it may simply not work.”  Researchers could not get them to grow past the 16-cell stage, and they failed to become pluripotent.  The problem seems more fundamental than trying over and over again.  Some ethicists may be glad for that.

Follow the money.  Smart investors are backing adult stem cell research at major universities and research centers, because the procedures work.  Embryonic stem cell programs are sold to taxpayers with tear-jerking stories and promises of miracle cures, but to date, no cure is even in sight.  Help your taxpayer friends not to be suckers when the next embryonic stem cell hucksters come to your state (e.g., Michigan, 10/15/2008).

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