The Cures Are Inside You
Your body has the means to repair itself, if the right cells get into the right places.
A nose for repair: Medical Xpress reported that a man with a severed spinal cord—an injury thought to be irreparable—has recovered partial sensation and movement of his limbs again. The secret: transplanted cells from his nose! This is astonishing; it offers hope for quadriplegics some day.
Treating patients with a complete spinal cord injury (SCI), the condition in which no motor or sensory function is preserved in the spinal segments below the level of the injury, has generally been unsuccessful. This is because no treatment methods have been able to regenerate the severed spinal nerves across the injured area. Now, doctors in Poland and scientists from England may have restored some function and sensory sensation to a 38 year-old man who had sustained a traumatic transection (severing) of the spinal cord in the upper vertabral level Th9. By removing one of his olfactory bulbs, where the sense of smell resides, and transplanting his own olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) and olfactory nerve fibroblasts (ONFs) into the damaged area along with a nerve “bridge” constructed between the two stumps of the damage spinal column, they have seen some voluntary limb function and sensation recovery over a 19 month follow-up.
The BBC News has a video of the patient, Darek Fidyka, walking slowly with the aid of a frame; he said it’s “like you were born again.”
Update 10/23/14: Medical Xpress update says the patient is not only walking, but can dress and undress himself and get into bed without help. Darek, age 40, described his progress with tears in his eyes. The doctors are now seeking new patients for the life-changing treatment.
Diabetes cure? A new stem cell recipe offers hope for diabetics, Science Magazine reported. It appears that the stem cells could be embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells; either way, the stem cells appear able to create the pancreatic beta cells necessary to produce insulin. Tests with mice have cured them of diabetes. “The diabetes research community has been waiting for ages for this type of breakthrough,” one researcher said. Human treatments are probably years away, though.
The all-healing eye: Could the cure for blindness be right in front of your eyeballs? Medical Xpress says that stem cells found in the cornea show hope for restoring sight to the blind. “Scientists at the University of Southampton have discovered that a region on the front surface of the eye harbours special stem cells that could treat blinding eye conditions,” the article begins; these cells are found “in a narrow gap lying between the transparent cornea and white sclera.” Macular degeneration is one of the diseases that may be treatable with these stem cells.
Professor Andrew Lotery, of the University of Southampton and a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital led the study. He comments: “These cells are readily accessible, and they have surprising plasticity, which makes them an attractive cell resource for future therapies. This would help avoid complications with rejection or contamination because the cells taken from the eye would be returned to the same patient. More research is now needed to develop this approach before these cells are used in patients.”
Another good thing: these cells are found in old people’s eyes, too, “and can be cultured even from the corneal limbus of 97 year olds.” This offers hope of treatment for both old and young from their own eyeballs.
Wait; there’s more: These are just a few examples of a burgeoning movement to find healing cells within the body. Stem cells have been found in the esophagus (Science Daily), possibly available to treat throat conditions and cancer. Stem cells in the brain (Science Daily) appear to have an “unexpected role” in regenerating lost neurons, a repair long thought impossible. And stem cells in placentas (Science Daily) might one day treat multiple sclerosis. Clinical trials so far show this is safe.
Update 10/23/14: Another story on Medical Xpress says that researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have reprogrammed mouse skin cells directly into brain cells, without having to go through the stem cell stage. This could herald future treatments for Huntington’s Disease and other brain disorders.
This is all wonderful news, but it raises a question: if these cells are there, why don’t they fix things without our help? Did the Creator install repair tools in us that don’t work? Here are some possible answers: (1) maybe they do more than we know, and we just aren’t aware of it. More importantly, (2) there’s been a lot of degradation since the Fall. A Biblical creation view would expect that the curse of sin that brought death broke a lot of things that were intended to promote immortality. We see that salamanders can regrow lost limbs. Maybe that’s a hint of what could have been, and will some day be, on a restored world for the righteous. In the meantime, God has given us the ability to learn about how things work so that we can help one another. The “good” stem cells (adult cells) show promise to bring back some of that lost repair capability, without having to kill an embryo to do it. More power to these researchers! Let the FDA not delay unnecessarily. You and I know people who could really use these “miracle” treatments.