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Bone marrow may contain 'ES-like' cells

4 February 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 294

A new type of stem cell isolated from human bone marrow could have all the medical potential of embryonic stem cells (ES cells), US researchers say. However, not all scientists are convinced of that the cells are as versatile as they appear to be, according to a report in the Washington Post. The new study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, builds on earlier studies which suggest that adult bone marrow cells can help repair other body tissues, such as heart and liver.

Scientists based at Tufts University in Boston used cell sorting machines to isolate the new cells from bone marrow donated by three different individuals. When injected into the hearts of rats that had experienced heart attacks, some of the bone marrow-derived cells became new heart cells, whilst others turned into new blood vessels. Further experiments showed that the cells could turn into nerve-like cells in the laboratory, suggesting that they could be capable of growing into many different cell types.

ES cells are the body's 'master cells', capable of developing into any kind of body tissue. Many scientists are hoping to develop new ES cell-based therapies for a range of different diseases in which a particular cell type is lost or damaged. However, ES cell research has triggered controversy in many countries, including the US, since it involves the destruction of embryos. This has lead several groups to look for alternative cells that have the same properties as ES cells. Team leader Douglas Losordo says of the latest study: 'I think embryonic stem cells are going to fade into the rearview mirror of adult stem cells', adding that bone marrow 'is like a repair kit. Nature provided us with these tools to repair organ damage'.

However, several other scientists, while praising the study, think it is too early to halt research into any type of stem cell. James Battey, head of the stem cell program at the National Institutes of Health, called the study 'very impressive, very interesting and I think very significant'. But he stressed that 'we're very early in the game and I can't say the results are absolutely airtight'. Battey added that 'we'd like to see this type of stem cell and other bone marrow stem cells and research on human embryonic stem cells move forward'. Stem cell researcher John Gearhart also cautioned that 'the contention that we have no need for embryonic stem cells is a very premature statement'.

In January 2002, Caroline Verfaille of the University of Minnesota, reported the discovery of multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs) - apparently capable of giving rise to all tissues in the body, just like ES cells. Also, in June 2002, a team of US researchers, again led by Catherine Verfaille showed that a type of adult stem cell derived from bone marrow (mesenchymal cells or MSCs) has many of the same characteristics as ES cells. A later report suggested that MAPCs and MSCs might actually be the same type of cell. Verfaille told the Washington Post that she was not sure that Losordo's cells are different from hers. 'In a lot of respects these cells 'smell' very much like the cells we've described in the past', she said.

Bone Marrow Stem Cells Generate Heart Tissue
Reuters |  1 February 2005
Marrow Has Cells Like Stem Cells, Tests Show
The Washington Post |  2 February 2005
28 April 2008 - by Evelyn Harvey 
Two men were the first subjects of a groundbreaking clinical research trial to establish the efficacy of treating patients with stem cells from their own bone marrow hours after a heart attack. The randomised controlled trial, the first to be supported by the UK Stem Cell Foundation...
29 January 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
New research has been published confirming that 'multipotent' adult progenitor cells' (MAPCs), a type of adult stem cell, can repair and restore damaged blood systems in mice. Catherine Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota first described these novel stem cells in 2002, but other teams...
25 September 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Three new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reveal contradictory results following the use of bone marrow-derived stem cells to treat heart attack patients. Two of reports found that injections of a patient's own bone marrow cells can improve heart function after...
2 May 2006 - by BioNews 
A team of US scientists has managed to successfully treat mice with symptoms of a genetic kidney disease, using bone marrow stem cells. The researchers, based at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, transplanted stem cells into animals affected by Alport syndrome, and saw a significant improvement in their condition...
3 March 2006 - by BioNews 
One form of stem cell therapy for heart attack patients appears to have little effect, German researchers report. The team, based at the German Heart Centre in Munich, carried out the largest trial designed to test the therapy to date. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical...
29 April 2004 - by BioNews 
Patients with heart failure could one day be treated with injections of their own stem cells, according to new US trials that provide the 'first convincing evidence' that such an approach might work. Previous studies have produced conflicting results, and some researchers have questioned whether stem cell therapies for failing...
25 March 2004 - by BioNews 
Two new studies have cast further doubt on the ability of blood stem cells to turn into heart cells, even though several clinical trials based on this promising new treatment are currently underway. Researchers at Stanford University, California, and the University of Washington in Seattle have failed to duplicate the...
8 March 2004 - by BioNews 
The use of blood stem cells to treat heart attack patients shows promise, but can lead to complications, South Korean researchers say. A new study published in the Lancet shows that although the experimental treatment can help repair damaged heart tissue, it also causes side effects in many patients. As...
23 February 2004 - by BioNews 
American researchers have used cord blood cells to successfully treat several genetic diseases, and say they now have evidence that backs up their approach. The scientists, from Duke University Medical Centre, North Carolina, told a conference last week that they have been using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood...
19 May 2003 - by BioNews 
Scientists from the US biotechnology company Genzyme have published research that suggests that 'adult' stem cells may be more useful than was previously indicated. Scientists and pressure groups opposed to research on human embryos have asked on numerous occasions whether embryonic stem (ES) cell research is even necessary. There is...
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