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    Safekeep a piece of you now, for use in future

    After LifeCell, Reliance Life Sciences to enter market as stem cell banking picks up

    Swaha Sahoo

    Chandigarh, July 15: The jury is still out on whether stem cell banking should be done by private players. The raging debate, however, is not deterring city residents from banking their children’s stem cells.

    The daughter of a senior Punjab official and son of a bottling giant, for instance, are among those who have given their children this unusual ‘gift’.

    Young professionals in their 20s, too, have fallen hook, line and sinker for stem cell banking.

    When a doctor suggested Rajit Kakkar to opt for cord cell banking before the delivery of his second child, the owner of Silver City, Mohali agreed immediately. His son Aryaman (7) was a leukemia patient. “The doctors suggested that stem cells from the umbilical cord would help in the future treatment if required,” said Kakkar.

    His five-month-old daughter Rishaaya is healthy, but Kakkar is assured that in case of any future problems, Rishaaya or Aryaman can fall back on the stored stem cells.

    Kakkar is one of the 180 clients in the tricity to have taken advantage of the stem cell banking collection facility at Panchkula.

    While the facility set up by LifeCell — a stem cell bank situated in Chennai — is doing well, new entrant Reliance Life Sciences, that has a stem cell bank in Mumbai, is all set to give it a stiff competition.



      Trail ride fundraiser planned for local toddler

      (Last updated: 7:35 PM)


      Sun Intern

      The tickets are purchased, about $20,000 has been raised, and for 18-month old Cameron Petersen's parents, the hope of seeing again is just a month and thousands of miles away.

      Cameron Petersen is a Port Charlotte tot who is legally blind due to Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, and is scheduled to fly to China on Aug. 6 for a case study to undergo umbilical cord stem cell surgery. Petersen's parents, Melissa VanGorp and Zachery Petersen, as well as his grandparents and the lead medical consultant with Stem Cells China, are all optimistic that the procedure will give sight back to the blind toddler.

      After about a month and a half of fundraising, the Petersen family has raised about $20,000 for the flight and surgery, about one-fifth of their goal. Michael Rudden, vice president of the Punta Gorda Horseman's Association, has organized a sponsored trail ride on July 28 to help raise money for Cameron.

      The rides starts at 9 a.m., with three different rides planned — the first one lasting an hour, the second two hours, and the third three hours. Trails will be marked for the rides, and all riders should be back by noon to meet the family. The ride is scheduled to take place at Deep Creek Reserve, Peace River Street, DeSoto County. A number of prizes are to be given away during the event, Rudden said, and everyone is invited. Nonsponsored riders over the age of 18 are asked to pay a $30 donation, and the request for those 17 years or younger is $15. For more information, call 941-639-4107 or e-mail

      "We are still chugging along, and the actual stem-cell part of it is now covered," Carol Petersen, Cameron's grandmother, said earlier this month. "He has his ups and downs. But I just feel really positive about all this."

      The treatment alone costs $15,000. An additional $10,000 to $20,000 is needed for a Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment chamber once Cameron returns home. The family is estimating $100,000 for the total expenses.

      When Cameron was diagnosed with ONH, a leading cause of blindness in children that also interfered with his pituitary gland, his parent's were told there were no treatments available. However, after researching online they found Stem Cells China, where they have successfully infused stem cells into patients suffering from numerous other diseases and disabilities. Stem Cells China has established a 98 percent improvement rate with patients undergoing treatment for other disabilities, according to the organization's Web site.

      This procedure, which is not available in America, takes harvested umbilical cord stem cells and, in a very technical process, the stem cells will then be transplanted into Cameron. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can replenish their numbers for long periods through cell division. Also, after receiving certain chemical signals, the cells can differentiate or transform into specialized cells with specific functions, according to Stem Cells China.

      The study is the first of its kind for ONH patients. The treatment includes four stem cell transfusions of 10 to 15 million stem cells each, Melissa VanGorp said. With each stem cell transplant, they also give the patient a transfusion of "neural growth factors" to encourage the stem cells to find their targets and transform into new neurons.

      After the treatments, Cameron will undergo intense daily therapy programs, which range from speech therapy to a type of Chinese massage, to promote the success of the procedure.

      "Now, we have the technology to help these children to see," Kirshner Ross-Vaden, the vice president of foreign patient relations and the lead medical consultant with Stem Cells China, said. "They don't have to go through their life blind. (But) no one knows for sure, someone has to go first. These kids are the pioneers. They may very well pave the way for all of the children of the future."



        The chimera question

        By Vivek Ramaswamy | July 16, 2007

        WRITERS ranging from ancient Greek and Hindu poets to novelist Michael Crichton have all envisioned the fictional possibility of creating human-animal hybrids. The notion of "chimeras" was particularly horrifying to H.G. Wells, author of "The Island of Dr. Moreau." But over the past two years, the subject has quietly made its way into scientific journals. Unbeknownst to most Americans, today the creation of human-animal chimeras represents a valuable experimental tool that could revolutionize science and medicine.

        However, the creation of these hybrid organisms also raises ethical questions: What rights should these organisms possess? Great Britain has already begun to take up the question; an official government report released last month backed the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos). US policymakers, however, are far from acting.

        One of the main forces driving research in this area is the widespread interest in human embryonic stem cells. In vitro experiments suggest that these cells can differentiate into any cell type in the body, but whether they would retain that potential if implanted in an actual human body is not yet clear. Answering this question could well require experiments that would require the destruction of a developing human being at a point beyond what is acceptable to most people.

        Yet the creation of a human-animal embryonic chimera offers a potential solution: Instead of using a developing human blastocyst, scientists can instead transplant and subsequently observe the human embryonic stem cells in a developing animal blastocyst. Last year Rockefeller University scientist Ali Brivanlou created an embryonic chimera by engrafting human embryonic stem cells into a mouse blastocyst and subsequently implanting the resultant embryo into a live mouse uterus. Experiments of this type offer the opportunity to study the human embryonic stem cells in a living system.

        This is just the beginning. The most revolutionary advances from research on human-animal chimeras are likely to emerge in neuroscience. Scientists at Stanford have already created a mouse with a brain partially composed of human cells; further, they have publicly declared their intent to engineer a mouse whose brain would be entirely human.



          Stem cells can
          be monitored for pluripotency

          A pluripotent stem cell is one that has the ability to develop, or differentiate, into cells of all the three major lineages - endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm
          Invitrogen has launched a new engineered stem cell line that will allow scientists to monitor the pluripotency of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) without sacrificing those cells. The line is the first one with this characteristic to be made generally available for sale. The BG01v/hOG line is obtained by engineering the BG01v hESC line with the Oct-4 promoter, a known pluripotency marker, coupled with a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter.



            Mesoblast to Test Donated Adult Stem Cells for Spine Treatment

            By Simeon Bennett

            July 16 (Bloomberg) -- Mesoblast Ltd. said donated adult stem cells will be given to patients suffering a degenerative spinal disease in a world-first clinical study aimed at developing new therapies to repair vertebrae.

            About 45 patients with intervertebral disc disease requiring spinal fusion have been enrolled in the study at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, the Melbourne-based company said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange today. Mesoblast said it safely implanted 10 patients' own stem cells in a pilot trial at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

            More than 300,000 Americans have spinal fusion operations each year in a procedure that requires bone to be removed from the hip and grafted between two vertebrae to bridge a damaged disc. Mesoblast is trying to develop a treatment that avoids bone extraction, subsequently reducing pain and infection risk.

            ``We hope it will result in a very effective therapy without the need for a second procedure,'' said Silviu Itescu, Mesoblast's chief scientific adviser, in a telephone interview today. ``It's a whole new way of generating bone.''




              Several hospitals engaged in unauthorised use of stem cells for treating fatal diseases

              Monday, July 16, 2007 08:00 IST
              Nandita Vijay, Bangalore

              Several small hospitals, nursing homes and one-man clinics in the country are found to be engaged in drawing stem cells from peripheral blood of patients and using them for treating certain fatal diseases. The clinically approved practice is to draw stem cells from bone marrow and not from peripheral blood.

              A section of doctors are trying to take maximum advantage of the impression amongst the public about stem cells considered to be a proven therapy for regeneration, reversal of degenerative disease, injury and anti-ageing benefit with least side effects. They are increasingly convincing patients, who can afford this treatment, to go in for stem cells therapies.

              With half-baked information about the benefits of stem cell therapy, some unscrupulous doctors are working to take the most out of the opportunity and make a fast buck. A number of patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, myocardial infarction, leg ischemia, diabetes and Parkinson's disease are thus being taken for a ride.

              Once the patient agrees for stem cell treatment, 5ml of peripheral blood is drawn from his peripheral veins. Blood is churned in a centrifuge after which the buffy coat is taken out and injected. Patients are charged Rs 65,000 for the treatment as they are impatient for a cure.

              Although peripheral blood is known to contain stem cells, it cannot be used to treat illness. The racket is rampant and needs to be exposed because the ignorant patient is misguided, informed sources said.

              Doctors are also known to transplant Foetal stem cells, where stem cells are sourced from aborted fetuses for treatment. The use of embryonic stem cells and foetal stem cells are still not approved for treatment by the regulatory authorities.



                July 16, 2007
                German ethics body recommends easing stem cell law

                BERLIN (Reuters) - A body that advises the German government on medical ethics on Monday recommended changing the law to make stem cell research easier, a view that could boost the chances of new legislation.

                The National Ethics Council voted narrowly in favor of changes to existing laws, which scientists say prevent them keeping up with global advances.

                After a heated debate in 2002, parliament decided to ban the production of embryonic cells from pre-existing stem cell lines.

                To ensure foreign laboratories did not produce stem cell lines for the German market, it barred German scientists from working on any lines created after January 1, 2002.



                  Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation From Chinese Mainland to Taiwan

                  The first haematopoietic stem cell transplantation from a Chinese mainland donor to a Taiwan resident will take place next week.
                  Volunteer Hang Bin has arrived in Beijing for preparation. She is from East China's Jiangsu Province and is quite honored to make the contribution.




                    Stem cell specialists face questioning
                    16 Jul 2007

                    A top panel of experts will face questions of public and scientific concern on stem cell research during an international conference being held at The University of Manchester this week.
                    The Stem Cell Question Time will be headed by Lord Naren Patel, chair of the UK National Stem Cell Network, as part of Stem Cell Manchester, a three-day gathering of stem cell researchers from across the globe.

                    Among the panellists at Wednesday's event will be Ron McKay from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA, Justine Burley, from the University of Singapore, and Jed Davies, from the University of Toronto, Canada.

                    The audience, which will be comprised of scientists both within and outside the field, will be invited to submit questions on important, contentious and challenging issues facing the stem cell research community.

                    Such topics up for discussion are likely to focus on the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research as well as the scientific challenges that must be overcome if this cutting-edge branch of biomedical research is to fulfil its true potential.




                      Stem Cells Treat Urinary Incontinence

                      Ivanhoe Broadcast News
                      Monday, July 16, 2007; 12:00 AM

                      TORONTO (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Approximately 13 million Americans are living with urinary incontinence -- a condition that causes the bladder to leak urine. Its nearly twice as common in women, and many dont seek help. Surgical slings, pills and exercises are a few common treatments, but researchers say stem cell therapy could offer new hope to people looking to live a life free of embarrassment.

                      Sharon Tomlinson has been living with an embarrassing problem for six years. Someone would tell a joke, and I would wet myself, she says. If Id cough, lots of times, I would find myself wet, and it became awkward.

                      Urinary incontinence became particularly inconvenient for Tomlinson when it began to interfere with some of her favorite hobbies, like golf. I had been embarrassed enough times that I really had to do something about it, she says. Thats why Tomlinson decided to join a clinical trial designed to test the efficacy of a new form of stem cell therapy.




                        Can Patch use for spinal cord injury to improve function?

                        Patch Helps Heart Grow New Cells
                        07.16.07, 12:00 AM ET

                        MONDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- A special patch placed on a damaged area of the heart regenerates cardiac cells after heart attack and improves heart function, a new study finds.
                        Success with the patch in rats may lead the way to new methods of repairing damaged human hearts and possibly spare some patients the need for a heart transplant, according to researchers reporting in the July 15 online edition of Nature Medicine.

                        "Normally, adult human hearts do not regenerate because the heart doesn't make more cardiomyocytes (heart muscle cells) after injury," explained lead researcher Dr. Bernhard Kuhn, from the Department of Cardiology at Children's Hospital Boston. "It would be desirable to induce the heart to make new cardiomyocytes after injury."

                        To that end, Kuhn's team created a patch that contains a compound called periostin, which helps cardiomyocytes divide and multiply. "If you do that over a number of cycles, you do get an increase in cardiomyocytes," he said. "So, the cardiomyocytes you have lost are replaced."

                        Periostin is a natural component of tissue surrounding cells. It comes from the skin lying around bone and helps stimulate cells to divide.

                        During a heart attack, cardiac cells die from lack of blood and oxygen. This damage prevents the heart from working normally. Typically, lost or damaged cardiac tissue cannot regrow.

                        In their experiments, Kuhn's team made patches from a material called Gelfoam and soaked the patches with periostin. They placed the patches on the damaged heart muscle of rats in which they had induced a heart attack.

                        After 12 weeks, the rats treated with the periostin patch experienced a 16 percent improvement in their heart's cardiac pumping ability. They also had less scarring of heart tissue, a reduction in the size of the damaged area of the heart, and more blood vessels feeding the area. In contrast, rats that received a patch without periostin showed no change in their heart function.

                        The hearts of rats treated with periostin showed a 100-fold increase in the number of heart cells and an average of 6 million more heart cells, far outnumbering the amount of dying cells.

                        The advantage of this technique is that it doesn't require new cells, such as stem cells, to coax the growth of new heart cells. Stem cells might also migrate to other parts of the body, with unknown consequences, Kuhn said. The patch is "also not gene-based, so it's not gene therapy," he said.

                        It is possible that this same technique could be used in people who have severe heart disease, Kuhn said. Although the technique might not restore heart function back to normal, there could be significant improvement, he said.

                        "At this point, the only biologically proven myocardial [heart] replacement therapy is heart transplant," Kuhn said. "But with this method, if you were on a transplant list, you may be able to come off it," he said. "This could be a revolutionary approach to treating heart failure."

                        One expert was impressed by the findings.

                        "The work is important in at least two ways: It helps improve our understanding of the molecular pathways regulating cell cycle reentry in adult cardiomyocytes, and it can form a basis for novel heart therapies based on the mobilization of [the heart's own] cells," said Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, a professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and co-director of the Tissue Engineering Resource Center at the U.S. National Institutes of Health.



                          House Will Likely Debate Ethical Stem Cell Research Funding This Week

                          by Steven Ertelt
                          July 16, 2007

                          Washington, DC ( -- The House of Representatives will likely engage in another debate on stem cell research this week as it takes up the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill. On Wednesday or Thursday, House members will consider an amendment to support ethical forms of the research.

                          Pro-life lawmakers and organizations support ethical stem cell research using stem cells obtained from alternative sources such as umbilical cord blood. These don't require the destruction of human life to obtain.

                          To further such research, pro-life Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, is joining with Rep. Artur Davis, an Alabama Democrat who votes for abortion.

                          Together the two will offer an amendment to bring the funding of the National Cord Blood Inventory program up to its full authorized level of $15 million. Congress has allowed funding before, but has not fully funded the initiative -- with the current appropriations bill setting funding at only $4 million.

                          Without proper funding for the NCBI, it will be forced to reduce the contracts awarded to cord blood banks, will not be able to expand and include other banks in the national inventory, and will likely fail to meet the goals and purposes of the law.




                            What Stem Cells May Mean to Ophthalmology

                            News from London on a potential breakthrough underscores the impact that stem cell research may have in our field of medicine.

                            Robert M. Kershner, MD, MS, FACS, Boston

                            Stem cells, those progenitor, prodigious and primordial little cells have been credited with everything from curing cancer to restoring sight to the blind. Why then is such a small group of cell types the center of such a tempest that even God himself is brought into the mix? Have we found the Holy Grail of medical cures at last?

                            Somewhere between the hype of the ongoing political and scientific debate and the real science that is taking place, there lies a glimmer of hope. The exhaustive research and millions of dollars already spent in chasing the stem cell microcosm is beginning to live up to its expectations. As the unraveling of the human genome that enhanced our understanding of disease, our knowledge of how stem cells go about their business could forever change how we practice medicine.

                            Science is on the cusp of something big from which a new field of regenerative medicine is emerging. Should ophthalmologists care? If recent work is any indication, we eye specialists may have a special stake in the outcome of the stem-cell wars (See sidebar, below). The impact of this specialized science on how we treat our patients could be profound.

                            Promise and Controversy

                            Stem cells, of which there are three main types—embryonic (derived from blastocysts), umbilical cord blood stem cells, and adult stem cells—are common to all organisms. These pluripotential cells possess the unique ability to renew themselves and to differentiate into an almost limitless range of cell types.

                            Stem cell research, first pursued in the 1960s by Canadian scientists Ernest A. McCulloch and James E. Till, is as vast and complicated a field as the human genome itself. Stem cells can be nudged to grow and differentiate by a promoter gene sequence of DNA that can tell the cell precisely what to do, when to do it, and how to act when it grows up. The real interest rests with embryonic cells, for they are truly pluripotential. These cells possess all the genetic information that is required to become anything from a skin cell to a retinal photoreceptor.

                            Once they divide through the process of mitotic division however, they are already well on their way to differentiating into fully functional adult cells. The secret is to isolate the post-mitotic precursor that can be coaxed into going one direction or the other, much like your teenager deciding to become a Rhodes Scholar or a gang member. The progenitor cells are the immature, yet undifferentiated cells that become something special, and therefore less able to differentiate themselves than the original stem cell from which they came. It is the stem cell, the stem of the plant that has yet to flower, that has created all the fervor.

                            The controversy about stem cell research is centered on the source for these little wonders: either fetal tissue or established stem cell lines. Researchers confined to using only established cell lines are limited in the directions that their cells can take. Providing a fresh source of fetal cells for science opens limitless possibilities.

                            Where do ophthalmologists fit in? Let’s take a look at where stem cell lines could be utilized in the eye.



                              Stem Cell Transplants Aid Angina Patients

                              U.S. scientists have found transplantation of purified adult stem cells into the hearts of severe angina patients is safe and provides pain reduction.

                              Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine scientists, in the first such U.S. study, found the transplanted stem cells produced a reduction in angina pain, as well as improved functioning in the patients' daily lives.




                                Vas votes "yes" on stem cells

                                Home News Tribune Online 07/17/07

                                MIDDLESEX COUNTY — ASSEMBLYMAN JOSEPH VAS, D-Middlesex, voted in support of legislation authorizing a November bond referendum to provide $450 million for stem cell research efforts in New Jersey.

                                "The investment of nearly half a billion dollars in stem cell research would help generate cures to deadly diseases and create scores of new high-paying jobs in the biomedical research industry," said Vas, who represents Carteret, Perth Amboy Sayreville, South Amboy and Woodbridge.

                                Vas said his support as a co-sponsor of the measure is the latest chapter in New Jersey's history of supporting stem cell research. In 2004, New Jersey became the second state in the nation to authorize embryonic and adult stem cell research, a law Vas supported.