While headlines are being made in Washington, DC regarding the debate over federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, an enormous breakthrough with adult stem cells is getting only a fraction of the attention.
This is exciting news that has great potential! Type 1 diabetes usually hits children or young adults, after which they become insulin-dependent. It’s estimated that millions of people around the world suffer from type 1, with 1 to 2 million of them living in the United States. The disease causes the patients’ own immune system (white blood cells) to attack and destroy their insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
A team of US and Brazilian scientists has completed a study of a small number of patients with early-onset type 1. After treatment, 14 of the 15 patients were no longer insulin-dependent. One has been free of insulin dependency for 35 months. The results have been published in the April 11, 2007 Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers caution that the study group is small and they haven’t monitored their ongoing progress very long. However, the promising results have created quite a buzz in the scientific community.
First, scientists took adult stem cells from each of the patient’s own bone marrow. Then they suppressed the patients’ immune system with powerful drugs. During this time, approximately three weeks, the patients were in isolation and very susceptible to outside germs. This treatment has the potential to be life threatening, however, the most serious complication that resulted was one patient suffered from pneumonia.
Doctors finally infused the adult stem cells, drawn earlier, back into their bloodstream.
The study leader, Dr. Julio Voltarelli from the University of Sao Paolo, said that ninety-three percent of patients achieved various levels of success with no mortality. He and his fellow researchers believe the stem cells developed into new white blood cells, which didn’t attack the patient’s beta cells. Dr. Voltarelli rushed to publish their findings because of the overwhelming positive results.
This dramatic breakthrough is the latest in a steady stream of scientific evidence demonstrating that adult stem cells are not only hoped-for cures and treatments, but very much a reality.
As soon as possible, please pass this information to your US Senators who are right now considering whether or not to use your tax dollars to fund the killing of human embryos for the unproven science of embryonic stem cell research. Here’s a link to their email addresses. Time is of the essence.