Monthly Archives: September 2011

Correcting Sickle Cell Disease with Stem Cells

(Medical Xpress) — Using a patient’s own stem cells, researchers at Johns Hopkins have corrected the genetic alteration that causes sickle cell disease (SCD), a painful, disabling inherited blood disorder that affects mostly African-Americans. The corrected stem cells were coaxed into immature red blood cells in a test tube that then turned on a normal version of the gene.

The research team cautions that the work, done only in the laboratory, is years away from clinical use in patients, but should provide tools for developing gene therapies for SCD and a variety of other blood disorders.

In an article published online August 31 in Blood, the researchers say they are one step closer to developing a feasible cure or long-term treatment option for patients with SCD, which is caused by a single DNA letter change in the gene for adult hemoglobin, the principle protein in red blood cells needed to carry oxygen. People who inherited two copies — one from each parent — of the genetic alteration, the red blood cells are sickle-shaped, rather than round. The misshapen red blood cells clog blood vessels, leading to pain, fatigue, infections, organ damage and premature death.

Although there are drugs and painkillers that control SCD symptoms, the only known cure — achieved rarely — has been bone marrow transplant. But because the vast majority of SCD patients are African-American and few African-Americans have registered in the bone marrow registry, it has been difficult to find compatible donors, says Linzhao Cheng, Ph.D., a professor of medicine and associate director for basic research in the Division of Hematology and also a member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering. “We’re now one step closer to developing a combination cell and gene therapy method that will allow us to use patients’ own cells to treat them.”

Using one adult patient at The Johns Hopkins Hospital as their first case, the researchers first isolated the patient’s bone marrow cells. After generating induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells — adult cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells — from the bone marrow cells, they put one normal copy of the hemoglobin gene in place of the defective one using genetic engineering techniques.

The researchers sequenced the DNA from 300 different samples of iPS cells to identify those that contained correct copies of the hemoglobin gene and found four. Three of these iPS cell lines didn’t pass muster in subsequent tests.

“The beauty of iPS cells is that we can grow a lot of them and then coax them into becoming cells of any kind, including red blood cells,” Cheng said.

In their process, his team converted the corrected iPS cells into immature red blood cells by giving them growth factors. Further testing showed that the normal hemoglobin gene was turned on properly in these cells, although at less than half of normal levels. “We think these immature red blood cells still behave like embryonic cells and as a result are unable to turn on high enough levels of the adult hemoglobin gene,” explains Cheng. “We next have to learn how to properly convert these cells into mature red blood cells.”

Only one drug treatment has been approved by the FDA for treatment of SCD, hydroxyurea, whose use was pioneered by George Dover, M.D., the chief of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Outside of bone marrow transplants, frequent blood transfusions and narcotics can control acute episodes.

Provided by Johns Hopkins University (news : web)


Teeth Stem Cells from Pups Grow Bone in Parents

September 26, 2011 — Stem cells derived from deciduous canine teeth and dental pulp can be grafted and produce bone regeneration between parents and offspring, according to a study in Cell Transplantation (2011, Vol. 20:7, pp. 1003-1013).

“Bone defects can occur for a number of reasons, and autogenous bone grafting — using the patient’s own bone — has been a standard approach to treatment,” stated study author Yoichi Yamada, DDS, PhD, of the Center for Genetic and Regenerative Medicine at the Nagoya University School of Medicine, in a press release. “However, considering severe invasiveness in self-donor bone sites and the limited supply of autogenous bone, alternative donor sources are needed.”

Previous studies have shown that oral and maxillofacial dental tissues contain a variety of stem cells, such as dental pulp stem cells and stem cells from deciduous teeth, Dr. Yamada and his colleagues noted.

Stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth were identified as a novel population of stem cells, capable of differentiating into various cell types, such as osteoblasts, odontoblasts, adipocytes, and neural cells,” Dr. Yamada explained.

Their study extracted deciduous teeth from canine puppies and grafted them onto parent canine mandibles as an allograft. After four weeks, bone defects were prepared on both sides of the host mandible. The newly formed bone was evaluated at two, four, and eight weeks. When compared with controls, the study group demonstrated well-formed mature bone and neovascularization.

Stem cells derived from dental pulp “display increased immunosuppressive activity when compared to bone marrow mesenchymal cells” and will likely have “immunosuppressive activity with potential clinical applications in allogenic in vivo stem cell transplantation, particularly for calcified tissue reconstruction,” the study authors noted.

This preclinical study could pave the way for stem cell therapy in orthopedics and oral and maxillofacial reconstruction, Dr. Yamada concluded.


Terrell Owens is in Korea for Stem Cell Treatment

Back in the day, an NFL player would tear up his knee and say, “Ah, I’ll just rub some dirt on it and go play.” We’ve evolved past that now. We’re at least to the point where a guy will insist on rubbing some Korean dirt on it before going back out and playing.

Terrell Owens is in Korea right now, according to the Korea Times, looking for a stem cell treatment he couldn’t get here in the states. Owens tore his ACL a couple of months ago, and I guess it’s not healing as fast as he wants it to. Take it away, Korea Times:

 Terrell Owens, one of the NFL’s most celebrated players, is  in Korea to undergo treatment for a knee injury at a local hospital  on a three-day visit from Sunday.

The wide receiver, now a free agent, will also have stem cells  collected as part of the treatment, Lee Jung-no, doctor and  president of the Chaum Anti-Aging center, said in a phone  interview Monday.

“Mr. Owens starts with therapy Monday followed by the collecting and storing of his stem cells the next day,” Lee said.

Owens has always had a thing for non-traditional remedies, as he  guzzled Tahitian Noni juice and credited it with getting him ready to  play in Super Bowl XXXIX. He’s always been a fast healer and kept  himself in ridiculous physical condition, so if he believes Korean stem  cells are the way to go, I’m in no position to question it. He’s not the only one going this route, either. Peyton Manning tried something similar, too.

Owens clearly wants back in the NFL very badly. Perhaps this is the reason. But I’m just not convinced that, even with a healthy knee, that someone’s going to give him a call. The perception is that there’s just too much baggage with him. A young, rebuilding team would rather look at its young guys. An established, contending team isn’t going to risk its team chemistry. His chances are better than Jeff George’s, but with a knee that isn’t healing, I’m skeptical.

But I wish him the best. Take good care of him, Korean health care system.

Via MJD of Yahoo Sports

Peyton Manning Underwent Stem Cell Treatment for Neck Injury

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has reportedly undergone a stem cell treatment in Europe because of a neck injury that is so far this season keeping him off of the field and on the sidelines, according to news reports. Manning is currently suffering from a bulging disk in his neck; he has undergone surgery several times this year to correct the injury.

Manning’s treatment is not approved in the United States, and involves using the four-time MVP’s own fat cells to regenerate the nerves around his neck, AOL Sporting News reported.

The New York Daily News reported that Manning underwent another neck surgery after undergoing the stem cell treatment.

Athletes are allowed to undergo stem cell therapies “unless a banned substance is used as part of the procedure,” an NFL spokesman told The Daily News.

Adult stem cells are able to grow and become a cell for a specific tissue or organ, according to the National Institutes of Health. They are different from embryonic stem cells, which come from fertilized eggs or aborted fetuses. Embryonic stem cells can turn into cells for nearly any tissue in the body.

Popular Science reported that Manning probably underwent a stem cell procedure involving induced pluripotent stem cells, which “can be reprogrammed to become any type of cell.”

Manning’s treatment is raising the eyebrows of some doctors, who say that the treatment doesn’t have any scientific evidence to back it up, ABC News reported. There are also concerns about the message Manning is sending to the public, since people might go on to copy the procedure that might carry extra or unknown risks, according to ABC News.

“There are many proposed therapies that are being tested in clinical trials, and there are more to come,” Dr. Lawrence Goldstein, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Diego, told ABC News. “But in the absence of reliable evidence, it is impossible to know whether the ‘treatment’ will make Manning better or worse or merely financially poorer.”

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry also recently underwent an experimental stem cell treatment with hopes of relieving a back problem, but doctors were concerned about that procedure as well, saying that the procedure could induce cancer or blood clots.

The Texas governor’s procedure was “an unusual choice … quite controversial because there isn’t good evidence yet, at least in the medical literature, that fat cells work better or even work at all in repairing bones,” Cleveland Clinic orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Muschler told the AP.


Via the Huffington Post

The Huffington Post First Posted: 9/19/11 11:28 PM ET Updated: 9/20/11 10:54 AM ET


14 Month Old Can See, Thanks to Stem Cells

Skylie Milton’s grandma held out a cracker while standing on the other side of the room.

“Come on, Skylie, come get a cracker,” she said.

The 14-month-old Billings girl whipped her head around, smiled from ear to ear and hobbled across the living room toward the snack.

Once Skylie got within its grasp, she reached out, took the cracker and brought it to her mouth.

It’s something she couldn’t have done just a few months ago when she could see only about a foot away.

Thanks to stem cell research, and $40,000 raised by the community to send Skylie to China for stem cell injections, the giggling girl can now see just beyond 25 feet.

“It’s just amazing, it’s awesome,” said Skylie’s mom, Kaile Milton.

Lying beside Skylie on the floor as she played with blocks, Milton still seemed to not believe her girl could see.

The doctors in China shared her amazement, Milton said.

“They were surprised she took to it so well,” Milton said. “Usually they don’t see that much progress that quickly.”

Because the type of stem cell therapy the family settled on is considered experimental in the United States, the family had trouble finding a doctor in the area who would support them. It was further research that led them to China.

Skylie and her parents, Kaile and Chad, along with grandma Tammy Rel, traveled in July to Quing Dao in China and the Chengyang People’s Hospital, where they stayed for about a month.

During that time, Skylie received seven stem cell injections geared toward improving the her eyesight.

Skylie was born missing her septum pellucidum, the part of the brain that separates the right and left hemispheres. Without it, her optic nerves never fully developed, diminishing her eyesight.

In addition, doctors determined that Skylie suffers from septo-optic dysplasia, which affects both her eyesight and the hormones related to the pituitary gland. It affects about 1 in 10,000 births, according to the National Library of Medicine.

To improve their daughter’s eyesight, the Miltons settled on stem cell injections and then looked to the community for help. The response was overwhelming.

The person who stands out the most to Milton’s mind is Dana Lariviere of Billings, who volunteered to head a fundraiser that helped raise more than $11,000.

“We wouldn’t have made the trip without them all,” Milton said.

In China

The family was able to stay in a room at the hospital, putting them close to Skylie during her 28 days abroad.

Most of the injections were given through her arm, though a few had to be given through her head.

“Watching the IV was horrible,” Milton said. “One day they had to poke her seven times, then eventually just had to put it in her head. But she took to it really well.”

To help soothe the child, the doctors would sing her “Old MacDonald” — in Chinese.

When she wasn’t receiving an injection, Skylie was undergoing rehabilitation treatments to help keep her blood flowing and the stem cells stimulated, including acupressure, electrical stimulation, walking training and cup therapy five times a week.

To continue her progress, Milton said they make sure to massage around her eyes and her head.

It’s unknown whether Skylie will need additional stem cell injections through the procedure, which is not available in the United States.

Not alone

During Skylie’s treatment, the Miltons met two other couples going through the same procedure, both from the United States.

When they weren’t waiting in the hospital, the group was able to go into the city and take in the culture.

It was quite a shock, especially seeing strangers’ adoration for Skylie.

“We couldn’t even go to the store, it would take an hour to get down the aisle,” said Rel, the grandmother. “People were taking pictures with her.

“They were very warm and loving toward her; we couldn’t keep her away from everyone.”

Suffering from jet lag and exhausted from the daily procedures, the family mostly stuck to the hotel, watching movies and having pizza — and McDonalds — delivered to the room.

“It was definitely close quarters,” Rel said. “You don’t get to venture off too much by yourself.”

Coming home

Skylie came home on Aug. 1, and not a moment too soon. The last few weeks of treatment were miserable.

It wasn’t because of the injections. Skylie was teething.

“She was not feeling good at all,” Milton said. “She was cranky.”

Now when she is fussy, all Milton has to do is start counting, holding up her fingers for her daughter to see.

Her crying calms down and changes to laughter as she starts clapping her hands, gets up and moves on to her next adventure.

Via Billings Gazette

By CHELSEA KROTZER Of The Gazette Staff

Dallas Doctor Uses Patient’s Own Stem Cells to Heal Back Pain

Five months ago, 37-year-old Chris Youngman couldn’t touch his toes because of back pain.

“I couldn’t hardly bend down and put on my shoes or socks before on a daily basis,” he said, adding that the pain made his job as a firefighter more than challenging.

After years of suffering, Youngman healed himself — sort of — with the help of Forest Park Medical Center neurosurgeon Rob Dickerman.

Dr. Dickerman is using an innovative and controversial technique for spinal fusion which uses a patient’s own stem cells to grow new bone.

Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry made medical news this month after announcing he had undergone a stem cell treatment during back surgery. The procedure was similar in that it uses a patient’s own stem cells, which are different from embryonic stem cells. Perry opposes the use of embryonic stem cells.

Previously, doctors used cadaver bone or took a painful portion of a patient’s own hip for spinal fusions.

“Well, now we don’t need to take a chunk of your hip,” Dr. Dickerman said. “Now, with technology, we can pull the bone marrow directly from the hip, concentrate it to get more stem cells, put it inside of a cage to hold it, then it does its job.”

The less invasive procedure happens inside the operating room where stem cells are extracted from the hip with a long needle. Only a bandage is needed afterward.

The cells are then condensed in a centrifuge. The process takes only minutes.

Those rich cells are mixed into a putty and stuffed into small containers called “cages.” The cages are inserted between degenerating discs during the same operating room procedure. The stem cell mixture is what transforms into bone.

“It’s like a cinder block that you build houses on, and you pack concrete inside the cinder block,” Dr. Dickerman explained. “We’re packing stem cells inside this cage and then it grows from bone to bone through the cage.”

Before stem cells, doctors used BMP, bone morphogenic protein, to induce bone growth. BMP is now being investigated for a possible connection to cancer.

“I’m using your bone to grow your bone, so there’s nothing really any safer,” Dr. Dickerman said. 

With traditional spinal fusion, the physician said it may take a year or more for patients to regenerate bone. Dickerman is seeing high rates of success in half the time, though the technique is considered controversial and is not yet FDA-approved. Stem cells are currently only FDA approved for bone marrow transplants.

Four months after his surgery, Chris Youngman’s spine is solidly fused. He’s working out again, pain-free, able to tie his own shoes, and ready for full duty again as a firefighter.

By Janet St. James


Stem Cells Could Save Endangered Species

Skin cells could save the skins of endangered wildlife.

Researchers at Scripps Research Institute and the San Diego Zoo worked together to develop stem cells from normal skin cells taken from two extremely endangered species, the northern white rhino and the drill, a type of primate. Those stem cells may someday be used to boost reproduction and cure diseases in the rare animals.

“The best way to manage extinctions is to preserve species and their habitats,” said Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in a press release. “but that’s not working all the time.

White rhino Ryder stated that the northern white rhino is a perfect example of species that could benefit from stem cell technologies. Only seven of the animals exist in the world which makes avoiding in-breeding difficult.

Stem cell technology provides some level of hope that they won’t have to become extinct even though they’ve been completely eliminated from their habitats. I think that if humankind wants to save this species, we’re going to have to develop new methodologies,” said Ryder.

The stem cells could eventually be used to create sperm and egg cells for use in artificial insemination.

Drill primate “I think that work would be a lot easier ethically with endangered species than with humans,” said Jeanne Loring, professor of developmental neurobiology at Scripps in a press release, “so I suspect some people working in this area would love to have our cells for experiments.”

These newly created stem cells can also be used in disease treatments.

The drill, a primate closely related to humans, was chosen because animals in captivity frequently suffer from diabetes. Researchers are currently working on techniques to use stem cells to treat diabetes in humans, so the close genetic relationship between drills and humans could mean similar techniques will work on both.

To create the stem cells from normal skin cells, the researchers used genetic manipulations. They inserted a gene that caused normal cells to transform into stem cells, a process called induced pluripotency. The scientists used the same gene others had used to make human stem cells from adult cells.

Dril_male_female Since the stem cells were developed from common skin cells, there is a ready supply of raw material. And even though the process is inefficient, it doesn’t matter, since only a few cells are needed to start a stem cell line.

“The most important thing is to provide these stem cells as a resource for other people taking some of the next steps,” said Loring.

Ryder’s team at the San Diego Zoo have a bank of candidates for future studies if the rhino and drill stem cell projects prove successful in preserving the species. His team maintains the Frozen Zoo, which contains skin cell samples from over 800 species.

Having a bank of skin cells means that even though an individual animal dies, its unique genetics are preserved. Stem cells made from those skin cells can then be used to re-introduce diversity that would have been lost.

The research was recently published in Nature Methods.



Male northern white rhinoceros at San Diego Wild Animal Park (Wikimedia Commons)

Northern white rhino (San Diego Zoo)

Drill primate (San Diego Zoo)

Male and female drill at Barcelona Zoo (Wikimedia Commons)

Analysis by Tim Wall

Original post: Discovery News