Ethical adult stem cells have a proven track record of success. Why, then, asks researcher David Prentice, is the NIH still spending $250 million a year killing embryos?
Published, peer-reviewed clinical trials have shown stem cells have reversed stroke damage years after the injury, helped spinal-cord-injury victims regain lost movement, helped heart attack patients recover, cured sickle cell anemia and reversed a wide range of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes and lupus erythematosus.
Advances with ethically sourced adult stem cells have already helped more than 1 million patients, according to a recently published review paper by David Prentice, a research director for the Charlotte Lozier Institute and a former professor of medical and molecular genetics at Indiana University School of Medicine.
He calls adult stem cells the true gold standard of regenerative medicine, while nearly two decades of media hype and the infusion of billions of research dollars on stem cells culled from human embryos have produced exactly zero published reports of validated success in a single patient.
Actually, its probably closer to 2 million patients that have been treated with adult stem cells now, Prentice told the Register. The 1 million figure he cited in his paper is from 2012, and the field of stem-cell research has exploded since then.
The Virginia-based Charlotte Lozier Institute has been trying to raise awareness about the successes of adult stem-cell therapies, against a mainstream media that seems to ignore them while championing more research on embryos. The institute has produced a series of videos featuring patients who have recovered from a wide range of diseases, including some of the most debilitating brain injuries and autoimmune diseases that have become epidemic.
One of the stories they tell is that of Sonia Coontz. She didnt realize she was having a massive stroke in May 2011 because she was only 31 years old at the time. During the day she suffered the stroke, the Long Island dog trainer noticed that different words came out of her mouth than the ones she wanted to speak. By evening, her husband, Peter, noticed that half her face had fallen slack. Later, she was struggling to move her arm and her leg, but she knew she was in real trouble when she tried to call Peter but couldnt say his name.
Doctors told Coontz the stroke damage clearly visible as a large, white mass on her brain scans was irreversible, and she would be severely disabled for life. For two years, this diagnosis proved accurate; Coontz could speak only 20 words, she couldnt move her right arm more than a few inches, her shoulder was in constant pain, and she could not walk more than five minutes without needing a wheelchair. She sank into depression.
Two years after her major stroke, when she was considered well beyond any hope of further recovery, Coontz heard about stem-cell trials at Stanford University. She became one of 18 patients enrolled by neurosurgeon Gary Steinberg to undergo a transplant of bone marrow stem cells directly into her brain, next to the area of her stroke damage.
Almost immediately after the surgery, Coontz was able to raise her paralyzed right arm over her head. Her voice became stronger and her language returned. She now runs, climbs stairs and has had a baby.
He has given me a new life, she said of Steinberg when she presented him the Smithsonian American Ingenuity award for his work in 2017.
Not all of Steinbergs patients experienced as miraculous improvement as Coontz did, but several had clinical improvements, and the clinical trial revolutionized the understanding of the brains potential for post-stroke recovery and the potential of stem cells to induce that recovery. It also spurred on dozens of other researchers looking to help the more than 800,000 annual American stroke victims, as well as those using stem cells to treat traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
Lupus and Multiple Sclerosis
Other stem-cell recipients include Jackie Stollfus, who suffered from lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease that has recently become the leading killer of young women in America.
Stollfus immune system had begun attacking her own cells, and she was suffering from arthritis and kidney failure and was barely able to get out of bed. She miscarried her first baby because of complications of the disease. Stollfus underwent chemotherapy to obliterate her own immune system and then had filtered stem cells from her own marrow transplanted in a clinical trial by Dr. Richard Burt at Northwestern University.
Seven years later, she has no sign of lupus, and she has given birth to two healthy baby girls.
Burts research has also been researching adult stem-cell transplants in patients with multiple sclerosis; and his study published this year, of 103 patients, found that only three of those who underwent stem-cell therapy progressed further into disease compared to 34 of those getting standard treatment. And most stem-cell patients showed clinical improvement compared to most standard patients who deteriorated. In one of his patients, Allison Carr, the therapy appears to have reversed the paralyzing autoimmune disease in its tracks.
For one disease at least, sickle cell anemia, stem-cell therapy has moved beyond clinical trials. A 2018 review paper refers to the use of adult stem cells for sickle cell disease (which afflicts 100,000 Americans with severe anemia, pain, strokes and organ failure) as the only curative approach for this disease.
Money Down the Drain
One of the biggest hurdles to moving adult stem-cell research forward is funding. There are reports that patients in Burts trials were paying as much as $100,000 to enroll in the trial. Carr had set up a GoFundMe page.
Prentice thinks that the money still being directed by the National Institutes of Health toward embryo funding could go a long way in moving gold standard stem-cell research into the mainstream. Notwithstanding President Donald Trumps recent appointment of a committee to investigate alternatives to fetal tissue and embryonic stem-cell research, these ethically prohibited methods have so far not produced any changes.
Its really disappointing, said Prentice, pointing to the 2018 NIH funding portfolio, which allots $246 million in federal funds to human embryonic research, about the same as it was under the Obama administration.
Thats about a quarter of a billion dollars for just one year. What could that do if it was redirected to actually treat patients or to get them into clinical trials for actual clinical research? Embryonic stem-cell research is not funding a single clinical trial.
Instead, he said, most of that research will be used to inject the human cells into animals, and much of it will be trying to overcome the biggest bugbear that embryonic stem cells have, which is their tendency to grow into tumors.
The job description of the embryonic stem cell at that point in their life is to grow very rapidly and to be able to form basically all of the cells in the human body, said Prentice. This magical so-called pluripotency is also why they grow cancerous.
In fact, Prentice added, researchers test if they are working with true pluripotent stem cells by first injecting them in mice to see if they generate tumors.
This tumorigenicity has so far been an insurmountable technical challenge of embryo cells. The use of these cells pose ethical problems since they require the killing of living human embryos usually leftovers thawed from the freezers of in vitro fertilization businesses.
Ironically, it is the same problem that researchers ran into doing fetal-tissue transplants. Once the shining star of medical promise, federally funded transplants of tissue from aborted babies into patients entranced some medical researchers for nearly 15 years, but ended disastrously.
Prentice thinks NIHs executive director, Francis Collins, a holdover from the Obama administration, is at least part of the reason for the fixation on embryos as well. Ive met with him. He has a very utilitarian ethics, he said.
From a utilitarian perspective, however, embryo research still doesnt add up.
Quit wasting money, said Prentice, and quit wasting lives: the lives of human embryos and the lives of patients we could be curing.
Register correspondent Celeste McGovern writes from Nova Scotia, Canada.
- Assessments of Treatment Options for Age-related Macular Degeneration - DocWire News - October 15th, 2019
- Stem Cells Market Growth Rate, Production Volume and Future Opportunities From 2019-2024 - Exponent Online - October 15th, 2019
- Catholics more motivated to donate if ethical investing is assured - Crux: Covering all things Catholic - October 10th, 2019
- Greenwood to step down as CEO of BIO after 2020 election - FierceBiotech - October 10th, 2019
- Epigenetic initiation of the TH17 differentiation program is promoted by Cxxc finger protein 1 - Science Advances - October 10th, 2019
- Interview with Tamer Mohamed of Aspect Biosystems on Advancing Tissue Therapeutics - 3DPrint.com - October 10th, 2019
- Yale researchers develop way to help brain organoids thrive - Yale News - October 9th, 2019
- Catholics more motivated to donate if ethical investing is assured - The Catholic Spirit - October 9th, 2019
- Stem Cell Market: By Key Players, Market Competitive Landscape, Trends and Forecasts to 2024 - Joliet Observer - October 9th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy Market to Witness a Pronounce Growth During 2020 - Gem Newz - October 9th, 2019
- On creativity, plasticity and repentance - Arutz Sheva - October 5th, 2019
- What's in the cards for this year's Nobel Prizes? - STAT - October 2nd, 2019
- Moving beyond hype: Could one-two treatment restore damaged heart muscle? - University of Wisconsin-Madison - September 28th, 2019
- Conjugated polymers optically regulate the fate of endothelial colony-forming cells - Science Advances - September 28th, 2019
- God of miniscule things - Pune Mirror - September 27th, 2019
- New study shows insight into how cells maintain their identity - Drug Target Review - September 24th, 2019
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells Market: Expansion Strategies Set to Generate Substantial Revenue in the near Future - Rapid News Network - September 24th, 2019
- Global Stem Cells Market 2019 Strategic Assessment by Top Players CCBC, Vcanbio, Boyalife, Beikebiotech - News Coed - September 24th, 2019
- Study Gives Clues to the Origin of Huntington's Disease, and a New Way to Find Drugs - Nature World News - September 24th, 2019
- Global Stem Cells Market 2019 Business Statistics Focus Report Growth by Top Key Players CCBC, Vcanbio, Boyalife, Beikebiotec - The Industry News... - September 24th, 2019
- Orthopedic Biomaterials Product Market Set to Witness YoY Growth by 2018-2026 - NewsStoner - September 24th, 2019
- Global Fetal Bovine Serum Market : Industry Analysis and Forecast (2017-2026) - OnYourDesks - September 24th, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy Market to Discern Steadfast Expansion During 2020 - Technology Trend - September 24th, 2019
- Embryonic Stem Cell - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics - May 22nd, 2019
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Vaccines using Fetal Tissue - May 6th, 2019
- Embryonic Stem Cells - Definitions, Use, and Research - April 28th, 2019
- Will Embryonic Stem Cells Ever Cure Anything? - MIT ... - April 28th, 2019
- Creating Embryonic Stem Cells Without Embryo Destruction - April 23rd, 2019
- What Are Stem Cells? - livescience.com - April 19th, 2019
- Embryonic Stem Cell: Definition, Uses and Collection ... - April 2nd, 2019
- Advantages of Embryonic Stem Cell Research | Sciencing - March 30th, 2019
- Practical Problems with Embryonic Stem Cells - usccb.org - March 20th, 2019
- Obama Ends Stem Cell Research Ban - CBS News - March 10th, 2019
- Types of Stem Cells A Closer Look at Stem Cells - January 26th, 2019
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research - rtlofneo.com - December 19th, 2018
- The Ethics Of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Viewpoint Essay - December 11th, 2018
- Embryonic Stem Cells and Artificial Stem Cells Are ... - December 5th, 2018
- Embryonic stem cells | Cells | MCAT | Khan Academy - November 25th, 2018
- Crucial Differences Between Non-Embryonic and Embryonic Stem ... - November 23rd, 2018
- 14 Key Pros and Cons of Embryonic Stem Cell Research ... - November 5th, 2018
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells in Development, Volume 129 ... - September 29th, 2018
- Reprogrammed stem cells identical to embryonic stem cells - September 29th, 2018
- Embryonic Stem Cell Protocols by Kursad Turksen | Waterstones - September 29th, 2018
- What Are Stem Cells? Research, Transplant, Therapy, Definition - July 17th, 2018
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research Pros and Cons | HRFnd - June 19th, 2018
- Stem Cell Research: Is It in Danger? - September 29th, 2017
- Truth About Embryonic Stem Cells | Stem Cell Orthopedic ... - September 29th, 2017
- Embryonic Stem Cell Research Still Hasn't Cured a Single ... - September 25th, 2017
- Doubts raised about CRISPR gene-editing study in human embryos - Nature.com - September 2nd, 2017
- Study shows human stem cells restore mobility in Parkinson's monkeys - Borneo Bulletin Online - September 2nd, 2017
- Sofa Vergara's ex might finally be out of luck in his battle for custody ... - Slate Magazine (blog) - September 1st, 2017
- Young cardiac cells rejuvenate heart in animal study - The San Diego Union-Tribune - August 29th, 2017
- embryonic stem cells : NPR - August 25th, 2017
- Mouse model of human immune system inadequate for stem cell studies - Stanford Medical Center Report - August 25th, 2017
- Injections of Vitamin C Could Help Fight Blood Cancer - Wall Street Pit - August 25th, 2017
- Letter: Response to 'Disappointed by Republicans' - The Herald-News - August 20th, 2017
- What are Embryonic Stem Cells? - amaskincare.com - August 19th, 2017
- Woman Will Use Stem Cells From Her Baby's Umbilical Cord To ... - LifeNews.com - August 19th, 2017
- Stem cells mimic sphere where embryos grow - Futurity: Research News - August 19th, 2017
- Vitamin C helps genes to kill off cells that would cause cancer - New Scientist - August 19th, 2017
- A way to stabilize haploidy in animal cells - Phys.Org - August 16th, 2017
- First implants derived from stem cells to 'cure' type 1 diabetes - New Scientist - August 12th, 2017
- Fast facts about cloning - WPSD Local 6: Your news, weather, and sports authority - WPSD Local 6 - August 12th, 2017
- Stem Cell Implant Is Being Trialled To Cure" Type 1 Diabetes - IFLScience - August 12th, 2017
- Lego-Like Brain Balls Could Build a Living Replica of Your Noggin - WIRED - August 12th, 2017
- Amniotic sac in a dish: Stem cells form structures that may aid of infertility research - Phys.Org - August 8th, 2017
- BioTech Marketing and market opportunity for Stem Cells - Checkbiotech.org (press release) - August 8th, 2017
- Stem Cell Training and Top Protocols using Human Umbilical Cell Tissue - Checkbiotech.org (press release) - August 8th, 2017
- Israeli Scientists Develop First Haploid Human Stem Cells - NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News (press release) (blog) - August 6th, 2017
- Early gene-editing holds promise for preventing inherited diseases - The Jerusalem Post - August 6th, 2017
- Cloning/Embryonic Stem Cells - National Human Genome ... - August 4th, 2017
- In a first, scientists rid human embryos of a potentially fatal gene mutation by editing their DNA - Los Angeles Times - August 4th, 2017
- Breakthrough: Doctors can now 'edit' genes in human embryos - Health24 - August 4th, 2017
- US Scientists First Ever To Genetically Modify Human Embryos - Chronicle Day - August 1st, 2017
- Controversial milestone: Scientists genetically modify human embryos for first time, reports say - The San Diego Union-Tribune - July 31st, 2017
- 3D printed brain-like tissue made from stem cells offers hope to address neurological disorders - Genetic Literacy Project - July 31st, 2017
- Scientists create 3D-printed brain-like tissue from stem cells - ABC Online - July 31st, 2017
- Stem cell research: the debate continues to rage - CosmicNovo.com (Science and Technology) - July 31st, 2017
- Vatican's Academy for Life Appoints Eugenicist - Church Militant - July 11th, 2017
- UW-Madison scientists grow functional artery cells from stem cells - Madison.com - July 11th, 2017