Monthly Archives: February 2013

Cord Blood stem cells being used to treat Cerebral Palsy in young children

cerebralpalsy-stem-cell-therapy By the time I’d finished the third paragraph of  “Medical trial offers Michigan families hope,” I knew I had to forward the story to Dr. David Prentice, who knows pretty much all there is to know about stem cell research. Written by Shawn Lewis of the Detroit News, it is a wonderfully inspiring story about Andrew Kijek, who will be infused with his own umbilical cord blood stem cells on Friday.

Andrew, who is 11, has spastic cerebral palsy and cannot crawl, walk, talk, hold his head upright. or control his muscles.

His mother, however, is able to see the bigger picture.

“He’s already perfect,” Maureen Kijek of Shelby Township, told Lewis after a recent physical therapy session. “We just want him to be happy.”

A clearly pleased Dr. Prentice got back to me immediately. He explained that the results of other trials and results, including from ongoing trials at Duke University and Georgia Health Sciences University, have been very encouraging.

“It’s wonderful to see more doctors recognize the potential of adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood for treating cerebral palsy in young children,” he said. “This is such a needed and simple application, and many young lives could be influenced by using these adult stem cells from cord blood.” Dr. Prentice cited the example of little Chloe Levine.

As Lewis explains only 5% of women save their newborn child’s umbilical cord blood, a rich source of potential help to treat various diseases. Maureen Kijek told Lewis that the decision was prompted by a family history of cancer.

“There’s a history of breast cancer — my mom died from it when I was 18, so I felt compelled to do it,” Kijek told the Detroit News. Lewis said Mrs. Kijek calls her decision a “whisper from God.”

The family is at the Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Georgia for the first of four visits. “The stem cells will be thawed and reintroduced intravenously into his body Friday,” Lewis wrote, adding that Andrew’s mother is cautiously optimistic about the trial. “”We are super excited, hopeful and the timing just feels right,” Kijek said.

Allison Thurman, 3, was the first Michigan participant in the trial. In 2010 she, too was clinically diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy. Since Allison completed the trial treatments a year ago, “her mother, Erica Thurman, said she has noticed improvement in her daughter’s speech and ability to use her legs,” Lewis wrote.

“’At first, she was only able to use her walker when we assisted her by holding her around the hips,’ Thurman said of her daughter. ‘Two weeks after the stem cell injections, she was pulling herself up on her walker.’

“Thurman said Allison’s speech also has dramatically improved.

“’Her vocabulary has increased, the clarity of her words, pretty much everything has improved,’ she said.”

Asked about the decision to store the cord blood stem cells and undergo  the treatment, Mrs. Thurmond said, “My husband and I feel it is the greatest gift we could provide our child,” adding, “We want our child to live a happy, fulfilling life and to be as active as she possibly can — physically active, whatever that is, to reach her maximum potential.”


Source: Dave Andrusko,


Study Aims to Use Stem Cells to Help Save Sight of Diabetes Sufferers

Eyesight Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are hoping to develop a novel approach that could save the sight of millions of diabetes sufferers using adult stem cells.

Currently millions of diabetics worldwide are at risk of sight loss due to a condition called Diabetic Retinopathy. This is when high blood sugar causes the blood vessels in the eye to become blocked or to leak. Failed blood flow harms the retina and leads to vision impairment and if left untreated can lead to blindness.

The novel REDDSTAR study (Repair of Diabetic Damage by Stromal Cell Administration) involving researchers from Queen’s Centre for Vision and Vascular Science in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, will see them isolating stem cells from donors, expanding them in a laboratory setting and re-delivering them to a patient where they help to repair the blood vessels in the eye. This is especially relevant to patients with diabetes were the vessels of the retina become damaged.

At present there are very few treatments available to control the progression of diabetic complications. There are no treatments which will improve glucose levels and simultaneously treat the diabetic complication.

The €6 million EU funded research is being carried out with NUI Galway and brings together experts from Northern Ireland, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal and the US.

Professor Alan Stitt, Director of the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science in Queen’s and lead scientist for the project said: “The Queen’s component of the REDDSTAR study involves investigating the potential of a unique stem cell population to promote repair of damaged blood vessels in the retina during diabetes. The impact could be profound for patients, because regeneration of damaged retina could prevent progression of diabetic retinopathy and reduce the risk of vision loss.

“Currently available treatments for diabetic retinopathy are not always satisfactory. They focus on end-stages of the disease, carry many side effects and fail to address the root causes of the condition. A novel, alternative therapeutic approach is to harness adult stem cells to promote regeneration of the damaged retinal blood vessels and thereby prevent and/or reverse retinopathy.”

“This new research project is one of several regenerative medicine approaches ongoing in the centre. The approach is quite simple: we plan to isolate a very defined population of stem cells and then deliver them to sites in the body that have been damaged by diabetes. In the case of some patients with diabetes, they may gain enormous benefit from stem cell-mediated repair of damaged blood vessels in their retina. This is the first step towards an exciting new therapy in an area where it is desperately needed.”

The research focuses on specific adult stem-cells derived from bone-marrow. Which are being provided by Orbsen Therapeutics, a spin-out from the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway.

The project will develop ways to grow the bone-marrow-derived stem cells. They will be tested in several preclinical models of diabetic complications at centres in Belfast, Galway, Munich, Berlin and Porto before human trials take place in Denmark.

Queen’s Centre for Vision and Vascular Science is a key focus of the University’s ambitious £140m ‘together we can go Beyond’ fundraising campaign. It is due to expand its Vision Sciences programme further when the University’s new £32m Wellcome-Wolfson Centre for Experimental Medicine opens in 2015. Along with vision, two new programmes in Diabetes and Genomics will also be established in the new Centre which is set to stimulate additional investment, lead to further global collaborations and create more opportunities for new health and biotech companies in Northern Ireland.

Source: AlphaGailileo, Queen’s University, Belfast

Broken Bones Mended With Stem Cells And Degradable Plastic

Scientists used a polymer blend of three plastics, natural and man-made, in a procedure called ‘solvent blending’ to create a scaffolding that is strong enough to replace bone, but hospitable to stem cell growth. The material was the result of a seven-year collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton, where researchers created and tried hundreds of combinations before settling on one that was robust, lightweight, and able to support stem cells, Medical News Today reported. 1-scaffold-for-bone

When inserted into bone, blood can still flow through the scaffold, and stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow will attach themselves to it. As the bone regrows, the mold, which is formed in a honeycomb pattern, slowly degrades.

Bone tissue frequently needs to be regenerated after trauma where significant damage may have been inflicted. Fractures and bone loss are significant problems in an aging population. The most common bone disease, for instance, is osteoporosis, which weakens bones and makes them susceptible to breakage.

This advance comes on the heels of a paper published last June, in which scientists have found that using stem cells from fat tissue produces better-quality bone than other methods, eliminating the need for painful bone grafts. The best grafts come from the patient themselves, but the patient may not have much bone to spare, and the quality may be low. On the other hand, stem cells from fat are plentiful (plus, easy to access via liposuction) and when purified in a certain way, propagate bone growth better and more quickly than culturing.

These two techniques could theoretically be used together to improve the current treatment of broken bones.

“We are confident that this material could soon be helping to improve the quality of life for patients with severe bone injuries, and will help maintain the health of an ageing population,” Mark Bradley, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry and co-author of the paper, told Medical News Today. Their research was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Co-author Richard Oreffo, Professor of Musculoskeletal Science at the University of Southampton said that his and Bradley’s strategy, which elegantly combines chemistry and medicine, “offers significant therapeutic implications.”


Source: Joann Fan,