Stem Cells Are Curing Horses — Are Humans Next?


“Doctors might soon be able to re-grow injured muscles, tendons and bones without invasive surgery, simply by injecting a person’s own stem cells into the site of an injury. Veterinarians are already doing it with injured horses, and research into human applications is well under way.”


That’s Marty Graham lead paragraph in the August 2008 issue of Wired Magazine’s story on adult stem cell research. .  According to the story, “The National Institutes for Health (NIH) seem to think regenerating human muscle and bone using a person’s own adult stem cells is nearly ready for prime time.”   The under-the-radar announcement to the NIH staff said it’s creating a bone marrow-stem cell transplant center within the NIH Clinical Research Center. Apparently while NIH sees some promise here, they didn’t want to attract attention and buried the announcement in other information.  


As you well know, there are two sides to every story.  In this blog we’ll try to cover the up and downsides of this most important issue.  Let’s start with the upside.


The Wired story goes on to say, “Using adult stem cells — grown inside the body or in the lab — has become accepted in the veterinary community, and horses have benefited greatly. Researchers are working to bring those same benefits to humans, but there are still hurdles left to clear.   The NIH project comes in part from what veterinarians have learned from injecting adult stem cells into valuable horses who’ve suffered injuries. In many cases, those horses’ careers were saved when the stem cells re-grew damaged tendons and ligaments.”


Here is where it is imperative that I point out the fallibility of animal trials.  Often what looks promising in animals simply doesn’t work in humans.  You can be hopeful but keep that fact in mind.  Medical science could tell a million stories of promising animal tests that fizzled in humans. Does that mean I’m not excited, absolutely not — but I am practical.  



The Wired story continues with, “An emerging body of scientific studies from all over the world — including a cardiac study under way in Miami and a pediatric ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) study at the Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital of Boston — is showing that using a patient’s own stem cells can prompt the growth of new muscle, from the knee to the heart. And the precursor step, using platelet-rich plasma for injuries, is on the verge of becoming mainstream.


Because researchers are using autologous cells — from the patient’s own body — the research is not controversial. No one has challenged the ethics or funding of adult stem cell research the way embryonic stem cell studies have been challenged. And because adult stem cells are native to the patient’s own body, the chances of a patient rejecting them are slim to none.”



Rocky Tuan, a Ph.D. and senior investigator in the Cartilage and Orthopedics branch of the NIAMS (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sees a day when there will be no need for the dreaded surgery for torn anterior cruciate ligaments that sideline up to a quarter-million people in the United States and Canada every year. 


Obviously there are other benefits of adult stem cell therapy as I’ve written before.  One might assume that if stem cells can regenerate tendons, they might also be able to repair hearts, lungs, kidneys and other human organs.  But again, all of this could be nothing more than a pipe dream. 


Stem cell treatment is not without risks, researchers say. The worst-case scenario is that the stem cells could cause cancer — or become cancerous themselves.


“You’re putting in cells that want to grow. That has to be under control or we can end up with cancer,” says Dr. Thomas Rando, an associate professor of neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine.  Tuan also says that researchers don’t entirely trust stem cells and their ability to adapt and grow.


There’s a nagging feeling that there’s a cancer stem cell, that when it’s agitated by exposure to carcinogens or radiation or something, it goes nuts, and that we can’t identify it from the other stem cells,” he says. “How do you find this bad boy and pull him out?”


“And there’s a nagging worry it’s the same cell. We only know these cells by what they’ve done, and by the time they’ve become cancer, it’s too late.”


The use of stem cells whether adult or embryonic is highly controversial and needs much more research.  Let’s hope government, the medical community and the law will allow, even encourage it.  . 


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About Bob Aronson

About Bob Aronson On August 21, 2007 I received a new heart at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. All these years later I am very active, happy and loving life. God bless my donor and his family. His generosity toward a complete stranger will never be forgotten. I am retired and live with my wife Robin and two dogs Reilly the main dog and Ziggy the backup. We are a very happy family. My gratitude to my wonderful caregiver wife, my donor, his family and the Mayo Clinic is beyond my ability to express. Suffice it to say I will do whatever is in my power to promote organ and tissue donation and to help and support everyone affected by the issue. As a result of receiving the “Gift of Life” I have made a major commitment to organ/tissue/blood donation, transplantation and related issues. I am the founder of Facebook's over 4,000 member support group, Organ Transplant Initiative (OTI) and the blog site, “Bob’s Newheart” I have authored the great majority of the nearly 250 blogs listed there. The remainder were written by excellent guest bloggers. The posts span a wide variety of topics mostly involving organ/tissue donation/transplantation and related issues, but also covering important current medical news and information. Wordpress data indicate the blogs have readers in 162 countries. Bob's Newheart is quickly becoming the news and information source of choice for those with an interest in organ/tissue donation/transplantation along with current developments in medical news and health care. Born In Chisholm, Minnesota I now reside in Jacksonville, Florida. I have three children and one step son, 8 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. My three grown children are Roger Aronson a well-known and respected Minneapolis, Minnesota Attorney, Dr. Colleen Hegranes Senior Vice President St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota and Harryet (Hank) Freeman who is probably the best history teacher in America, at least that's what her students at Woodbury, Minnesota High school tell me. Stepson Tim Grant and wife Jennifer live a couple of blocks from us in Jacksonville. Jen is a talented cook, baker, and mother. Tim is an in-demand electrician in Jacksonville who can really make almost anything work. Stella and Lily Grant are two very bright and talented granddaughters. For 25 plus years I owned the Aronson Communications Group an international consultancy specializing in health care communication. The Mayo Clinic was my first consulting client, a relationship that lasted until my retirement. I also worked with 3M health care, UNOS, LIfeSource, Dartmouth University Medical Center and CH2M HILL, one of the nation's largest environmental engineering firms. Prior to being a consultant I served for four years as the first Anchor for Morning Edition on the Minnesota Public Radio Network; was the Communications director for Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich and before that held positions as a broadcast journalist at several Midwest facilities. I also served as the Director of broadcast communications at Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Minnesota. While I am retired Robin is not and I assist her efforts as founder and owner of Jingler’s Jewelry. She designs and makes colorful, "Fun" anodized aluminum jewelry and is also an accomplished printmaker. She sells her creations at art shows, festivals and gift shops in states east of the Mississippi but mostly in the south. Her website is When I have time, my hobbies include reading, music and woodworking. One of my most notable projects was completing a wood scale model of the mom and pop grocery store my parents ran for 50 years in Chisholm, Minnesota. The model now resides in Chisholm in my sister's home. Our parents were wonderful people who instilled in us a very strong work ethic and a sense of fairness and equality. I also built a dollhouse for granddaughter Lily Grant and just completed designing and building a CD box that looks like an accordion. A friend commissioned me to make it in memory of his father who was an accomplished accordion musician. I have a brother and sister of whom I am very proud . They are twins. Terry is a Minnesota District Court Judge and Mary a retired but still the best 3rd grade teacher in America. I am proud of them for what they have done but more importantly for who they are. My wife Robin is a caregiver, musician, artist, entrepreneur and the best friend I have. While we do a lot of things together we especially like making music. Often in the evening you can hear the strains of folk, Blue Grass, country and other music coming from our family room. Robin plays several instruments including string bass, accordion, guitar, ukulele, mandolin and...well the list goes on. I play harmonica and have one in almost every key. She's really good...I'm not. Quantity does not ensure quality. One more thing. I am also a recovering Alcoholic and a former smoker. I emerged from a 28 day in-patient alcoholism treatment program in August of 1982 and have managed to stay sober with the help of a lot of people both in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous. I quit smoking in January of 1991 after a 37 year habit of up to four packs of cigarettes a day. It wasn’t easy but I’m living proof that it can be done. I am available to anyone suffering from or affected by any addiction at any time through my email address or via phone 904-434-6512.

Posted on February 27, 2009, in New Ideas. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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