Imagine that you have just had a serious heart attack. The muscle has been severely damaged. At present, this is not a hopeful scenario. However, new research shows promise that scientists may be able to use cells from other parts of your own heart and transform them into new muscle tissue! According to Dr. John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania , “….everyone believes this is really the future of so-called stem cell biology. “
This development has been a several stage process. In 2007, researchers were able to get skin cells to become much like embryonic stem cells. Therefore, they would transform the cells from one state to the other, and then transform the newly developed stem cells into the specialized cell they needed for transplanting. This new method, called Direct Conversion, skips the stem cell stage altogether. The skin cell would be directly modified, through the use of chemical signals, into any type of specialized cell that might be needed. Just this month, scientists have been able to successfully turn human skin cells into early stage blood cells.
Of course, there are still those who believe that embryonic research still needs to continue. Dr. Nora Sarvetnick, who heads up the Nebraska Regenerative Medicine Project at UNMC (which is seeking out research dollars to expand their work with embryonic cells) stated: “It (Direct Conversion) is a promising way to create new tissues for healing or cell replacement, but it is still years from being used to help patients. Adult and embryonic stem cell research remains more promising than direct conversion in helping patients.” I agree with the adult stem cell research, but the facts I have seen show embryonic stem cell research to be years from helping patients, if ever.
Bioethics attorney, Wesley J. Smith, thinks that Direct Conversion has the potential to make embryonic research obsolete. “When George W. Bush praised scientists as having the talent and ability to discover and harness the healing potential of regenerative medicine ethically, that is, without needing to destroy embryos his enemies scoffed. ‘What a dope,’” he said. “His religion got in the way of the understanding that ESCR was the only hope. That was then!”
The bottom line remains that there is only so much research money available. There are only a limited number of scientists who are willing to pour their life work into regenerative medicine. Perhaps a few years ago it seemed like the only way to go was through embryonic stem cells (which never made it right!) However, things have drastically changed! Not only have adult stem cell research and Direct Conversion made amazing advances, but they are the only ones that really show the greatest promise of change.
In today’s (Tuesday, November 30) issue of the Omaha World Herald, the following statement is made: “Using embryonic stem cells is proving to be inefficient and more difficult than expected, scientists said. For example, the heart muscle cells developed from them aren’t fully mature… and there’s no satisfactory way yet to make mature insulin-producing cells of the pancreas which might be used to treat diabetes, said George Dailey of Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.” And, let me remind you: NO ONE HAS YET BEEN SUCCESSFULLY TREATED WITH EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS!
Listen carefully when you hear news reports or see television programs which talk about stem cell research. If there has been a cure or a successful treatment, it has been because of some development in Adult Stem Cell Research. And yet, they will use the term, “Stem Cell” research. The bias in the media is towards the continued funding of Embryonic Research and they don’t want you to know the truth. I, however, will keep you posted. This has become a passion of mine, right along with most of the Life issues.
When we were home for Thanksgiving, I watched as my mother slowly made her way down the long hallway at her Retirement Center behind a walker. She has Parkinson’s. Her hands and, now, her legs shake- sometimes uncontrollably. If new treatment is not found, it will continue to get worse. There is not a doubt in my heart that the solution for Parkinson’s will be found in Adult Stem Cell Research or with this new Direct Conversion Method. For the sake of the unborn and for the sake of investing in what really works, I want all funds pulled from Embryonic Research and poured into the other types. I am going to look for addresses and the right people to make my voice heard. When I find them, I will share them with you.
Keeping it true! Barb