‘Step forward’ for adult stem cell research

Scientists and doctors have praised the potential of adult stem cell research, as an alternative to controversial embryonic research.

Last week, researchers at University College London (UCL) spoke of hope for paralysed patients as a result of trials using adult stem cells.

And at Imperial College London, five stroke victims showed remarkable signs of recovery after undergoing a pioneering adult stem cell treatment.

Regeneration

The research carried out at UCL was published in the scientific journal Neuron. It involved re-growing spinal cord neurons from a patient’s own cells.

When implanted into the spines of rats, these neurons rapidly formed connections deep into the animal’s brain and along its spine.

This raises the prospect that one day it may be possible to “rewire” damaged spinal cords using adult stem cells, derived from a patient’s own body, so that they may overcome devastating injuries.

Exciting’ development

At Imperial College, five stroke patients were treated with stem cells extracted from their own bone marrow.

Dr Soma Banerjee, who co-wrote the study said: “There were significant improvements in all our patients in neurological and clinical terms”.

Neuroscientist Dr Madina Kara described the findings as “one of the most exciting recent developments in stroke research” and said they “could lead to new treatments for stroke patients”.

Advantageous

Adult stem cell research has long been preferred to embryonic stem cell research from an ethical stand point. Embryonic stem cells are hugely controversial because sourcing them involves the destruction of human embryos.

Adult stem cells are also viewed as advantageous over embryonic stem cells because they release chemicals which encourage natural repair.

Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship, Dr Peter Saunders has said: “It is a tragedy that British scientists have wasted so much time, money and energy exploring the dead end street of embryonic stem cell research”.