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A Brief History of Stem Cells

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Why all the emphasis on Embryonic Stem Cell research and so little written about Adult Stem Cell Research?

Researchers have known about adult stem cells (ASC) for 40 years, embryonics (ESC) for almost as long. For most of that time, bone marrow and ASC have been successfully used to help certain forms of cancer, leukemia and a couple of uncommon diseases. Then, in 1998, two events in the USA shook the ground of the medical world forever, though it wasn’t immediately clear how it would play out.

At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. Jamie Thomson isolated, for the first time, a line of embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile, at Duke University, Prof. Doris Taylor wrote the seminal paper which let the world know that ASC had helped cure heart disease in rodents. Both doctors thought human benefits would be a very long time away.

Thomson was correct, saying it would take “decades.” Taylor was, in her own words, “a little naïve” for not realizing that the medical community would take off and use her concept virtually immediately! First came a year or two of animal tests, then, in Paris, 2000, doctors gave a dying 70-year-old heart patient bone marrow cells and he lived four years, at which time the doctors ‘fessed up and released his name. In 2001, USA pioneer Warren Sherman, MD (Columbia U, Mt. Sinai NY Hosp) went to Rotterdam and became the first American to implant ASC into a human heart. However, if you can believe it, the same Sherman, calls those that have taken forward what he did eight years ago, “snake oil salesmen.”

In 2002, a very daring clinical trial led by Dr. Hans Dohmann plus six colleagues in Brazil took 21 transplant candidates and gave 14 of them bone marrow cells. The results were so spectacular that the AHA accepted the paper and it was presented in 2003. Five of the seven in the control group opted in to make a total of 19 stem cell transplants. The mortality rate for transplant candidates is about 35% per year. At that rate there would be, of those 19, only 2.2 patients still alive after five years. There were, in fact, 12 alive as of Dec. 31, 2007; more than five years down the road.

In 2003, Dr. Andreas Zeiher of the Goethe Institute in Frankfurt began much larger trials. As of 2007, he has overseen more ASC implants into hearts than anyone, both in and out of clinical trials.

In 2004, Dr. Amit Patel of Pittsburgh completed two of the most successful trials ever, especially when, in Uruguay, he proved, on a group of ischemic heart failure patients, that a bypass plus cells was infinitely better than a bypass only. That same year, TheraVitae, in Israel, developed a new, powerful blood-derived stem cell and dared to treat the sickest patients no clinical trial would consider. Also in 2004, one of the Brazilians, Dr. Perin, came to Texas and used the Brazil results to get the first ASC heart clinical trial approved by the FDA. Over a dozen such approvals were granted in the next 12-18 months.

Meanwhile, around the world, while USA stem cell research remains mired in politics instead of science, ASC advances in virtually every sector of medicine are rocketing forward without any sign of letting up. In 2005, Drs. Vina & Saslavsky in Argentina completed the very first successful diabetes2 stem cell clinical trial in the world: 13 out of 16 successfully cured. Spinal problems and emphysema and renal failure and cirrhosis of the liver treatments will be moving to the forefront in 2008-9. (Yes, but mostly in China and elsewhere, while Americans die with those diseases without a chance of help from their “doctors.”

TheraVitae has published two papers showing that ASC could easily produce the neurons that embryonic fanatics still lie about and claim cannot happen. That opened the way to research brain and nerve and immune system disorders, but America isn’t even trying. China is showing the way for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and others, including what is secretly America’s fastest growing disease, Autism . By 2015 we’ll see some trials, and, knowing ASC, they will be successful, but will NOT lead to treatments. Proof? Those above-mentioned USA heart clinical trials are now five years down the road from Dr. Perin’s approval. Not a prayer of helping anyone in the next five years, because the American Medical System will not allow its profits to be disturbed.

Oh, and embryonics---nothing to report. Not one person helped. Not one trial approved (or even applied for). ** But lots of press releases bragging about “discoveries” and promising the moon and even the stars. Jamie Thomson, however, was spot-on when he said “decades.” To try to quiet the politics, he even helped invent a way to get ESC from adult skin, but that won’t work until 2010, if then, and, at best, we’ll still be where we are today, which is: ESC have not been involved in any of the about 2000 world-wide stem cell clinical trials, and won’t be tried in one anytime soon.

**To be historically correct, there was one embryonic trial “approved” in January 2009. Don Margolis is on record as saying that trial is a clinical sham and will not start in “early summer 2009 as publicized.”

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