Brits Say Stem Cells May Make Heart Transplants Unnecessary
“Heart disease patients in Britain could soon take part in a revolutionary stem cell surgery trial that could change the nature of heart surgery and ultimately end the need for transplants.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/4569971/Trials-for-revolutionary-stem-cell-surgery-in-UK-within-a-year.html That headline comes on the heels of President Obama’s promise to remove the ban on Government backed embryonic stem cell research here in the U.S.
The story by Caroline Gammell in the British publication, The Telegraph, seems to offer more than promise. If one could use their own (adult) stem cells to repair damaged organs it would be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of all time. No longer would there be a need for organ donors and sometimes risky transplant surgery. Also true is the fact that because a patient would use his or her own stem cells there would be no danger of rejection and therefore no need to take often toxic anti-rejection drugs that transplant patients must take for the rest of their lives. To quote from the story; “It is believed that British patents could take the pioneering treatment, in which a patient’s own cells are extracted and grown in a laboratory, in as little as a year. Scientists have worked out a technique where human bone marrow cells are turned into human heart stem cells and then injected into the heart. Laboratory grown heart stem cells were initially extensively tested on animals and trials on humans in Europe are due to start later this month (February 2009). “
Again, quoting from the story, “Professor Sian Harding, of Imperial College London, said being able to convert bone marrow stem cells into heart stem cell was a “big leap forward” in finding an “effective” treatment for heart failure.
“Placing heart stem cells into the heart to repair has a very good chance of working because the stem cells are the patient’s own there are no problems with rejection,” she said. Prof Harding is working on turning embryo stem cells into heart stem cells but said her research was “still years away” from being used in patients.” The most recent process,” according to the Telegraph, “was developed at the Mayo Clinic research centre in Minnesota”
One must be careful in reporting this kind of story because the research is still in the stage of being tested on laboratory animals and no matter how promising it is with animals, history tells us that the effect on humans may be totally different.
We’ll watch this story carefully and report any new information. In the meantime I urge you to “Google alert” this story as well and let us know what you find.
My only question here is, did the Telegraph make too much of the story. Does it offer premature and perhaps false hope to the thousands of people who are waiting for new organs and who could die waiting? Please read the full story by clicking on the URL listed above, and comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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