The news about “Stem Cells, Inc.’s” phase I trials of fetal neural stem cells in the treatment of Batten disease reports improvement in the condition of the first patient.
I’m a little shocked at how matter-of-fact the article treats the use of brain cells from aborted infants.
Why is there not more questioning about the process and methods involved in harvesting these cells? Where is the open scientific communication?
And why, in the reports about this trial, are there no discussion about – seemingly no consideration of – ethical stem cells from umbilical cords and adult tissues?
Of course, there have never been any human trials using embryonic stem cells. The tissues transplanted into Daniel Kerner’s brain are fetal stem cells – the babies killed in the abortions before their brains were collected and then processed for the transplant were at least 8 weeks along, and probably a bit more. However, there’s not much info on the “purification” process that resulted in the volume of “purified neural stem cells.”
There is quite a bit of research showing that neural stem cells are available from the cells harvested from umbilical cords and even adult sources, such as bone marrow and neural tissue in the mature body.
Wharton’s jelly cells have been “easily” ( Free abstract online) induced to transform into neural stem cells and to proliferate in the lab – at least 80 doublings. In animal models, the cells are being evaluated for use in treating Parkinson’s and other neurological disease.
Perhaps, now that “Stem Cells, Inc.” researchers believe that they know the specific markers that are to be found on the cells they believe to be useful, they can turn their efforts to more ethical research. And more accessible stem cell sources, especially umbilical cord cells. Even with 1 out of 3 babies aborted in this country, most are aborted at the embryonic stage (1st trimester), and so there are many, many more opportunities to harvest ethical stem cells from umbilical cords.