Human stem cells
Experimental treatments using stem cells
There are major concerns about the use of embryonic stem cells in treating
and curing human diseases and disorders. Some people object to their use for
moral reasons. Reporting on embryonic and adult stem cells has been highly
We strongly recommend that you read our summary on
the use of stem cells first, before reading further.
The two types of stem cells:
The two main types of stem cells are adult stem cells and embryonic stem
cells. Each has their advantages and disadvantages:
||Adult stem cell research has an almost four decade head start over
research with embryonic stem cells. So experimental treatments for humans
are already being developed using adult stem cells whereas none are yet
available using embryonic stem cells.
||Embryonic stem cells have a major advantage because they can develop
into the full range of 220 cell types in the human body. In fact, this is
precisely what happens during each pregnancy. Adult stem cells can only be
coaxed into developing into a limited range of cell types.
||Adult stem cells have a major advantage because there are few ethical
concerns over their collection and use. On the other hand, harvesting
embryonic stem cells kills the pre-embryo. Since many pro-life supporters
believe that a pre-embryo is a full human person, they believe that this is the equivalent of
murdering a human being.
Successes with adult stem cell
Massachusetts Family Institute, a pro-life
group that is opposed to the use of embryonic stem cells reported on some of the
impressive successes with adult stem cells:
"Adult stem cells are regenerative cells of the human body
that can be coaxed to become a whole host of tissues, including heart
tissue and neural matter. With these adult stem cells, physicians have
successfully treated autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple
sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. They have also
restored proper cardiac function to heart attack victims, and improved
movement in spinal cord injury patients. 1
Successes with embryonic
stem cell research:
Continuing with the statement by the Massachusetts Family Institute,
"Embryonic stem cells have yet
to yield one single success in the treatment of any [human] ailment." 1
However, in spite of embryonic stem cell research
having started four decades late, some promising developments have already been
made that are expected to result in cures of human diseases.
||2005-SEP-19: Repairing damaged spinal cords
in mice: Researchers at the University of California, Irvine
first injured the spinal cords of test mice. Seven days later, they injected
stem cells into some of the mice.
Medical News Today reported:
"For the study, the UCI team used a novel
technique they created to entice human embryonic stem cells to
differentiate into early-stage oligodendrocyte cells. Oligodendrocytes
are the building blocks of myelin, the biological insulation for nerve
fibers that is critical for maintenance of electrical conduction in the
central nervous system. When myelin is stripped away through disease or
injury, sensory and motor deficiencies result and, in some cases,
paralysis can occur. ... Within two months, these rats began to show
significant improvements in walking ability in comparison to injured
rats who received no treatment." 2
However, rats that had been injured 10 months before treatment were not
helped. It seems that scar tissue prevented growth of myelin.
||2007-JUN: Age-related macular
degeneration (AMD) reversed in mice: AMD accounts for a major loss of
quality of life in many elderly people. About 25% of all people over the age
of 60 in Britain have some vision loss due to this disease process. In
Europe, an estimated 14 million people suffer blindness from this cause.
This would translate to about 28 million disabled or partly disabled Americans.
AMD affects the central part of the retina and causes visual cells to stop
functioning. This causes loss of sight, However, peripheral vision is much
less affected, so many people with AMD do retain some sight.
UK Researchers at University College London (UCL), Moorfields Eye
Hospital in London, and the University of Sheffield have transplanted
retinal cells into mice that were blind as a result of a genetic defect that
The London Project to Cure AMD was launched on 2007-JUN-05 with a
₤4 million grant from an anonymous donor in the
U.S. Prof Pete Coffey, from UCL, said:
"Our goal within the five-year period is to have patients we can
treat. If it hasn't become routine in ten years, it would mean
"Stem Cell Research," Massachusetts Family Institute,
"Stem cell treatment improves mobility after spinal cord injury," Medical
News Today, 2005-MAY-11, at:
"Blind stem cell 'cure' in 5 years," Metro.co.uk, 2007-JUN-05, at:
Copyright © 2004 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-JUN-09
Author: B.A. Robinson