Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stunning development in stem cell research

British scientists have grown stem cells from umbilical cord cells and grown them into new liver tissue. Using techniques developed on board the international space station, the scientists say that they may be able to use this technique to duplicate the 200 to 300 different types of tissues that comprise the human body. This would allow the repair, replacement and treatment of a whole host of diseases such as liver disease, diabetes, strokes and heart conditions.
"Acquiring stem cells from embryos also has major limitations because it is difficult to obtain enough cells to transplant, as well as getting the right tissue type for the patient," Dr McGuckin said. "Using cord blood gets over that obstacle because we can produce more stem cells, and, with a global birth rate of 100 million babies a year, there is a better chance of getting the right tissue type for the many patients out there waiting for stem cell therapy."
The stem cells are produced in a weightless atmosphere which prevents the cells from determining which way is up and the cells can't begin to develop into unwanted tissue. Stem cell therapy holds the promise of treatment for diseases and injuries, like spinal cord injuries, that currently have no effective treatment. Obviously, using umbilical cord blood instead of embryonic stem cells also avoids a whole host of moral and religious contentiousness.

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