You may not have read it in the New York Times, but there’s exciting news supporting the hope that ethical – non-embryonic – stem cells may be used to treat not only diabetes, but to repair kidney damage.
The most significant article is from The Procedings of the National Academies of Science, which, although largely ignored by the mainstream press, was summarized in a November report in the National Geographic online:
In a study published in November in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reported that stem cells derived from human bone marrow and transplanted into diabetic mice stimulated the animals’ pancreases to produce insulin, repairing damage caused by diabetes.
“This fits with a large body of evidence that these cells have this remarkable ability to go to injured tissues and repair them,” said the study’s lead author, Darwin Prockop, the director of the Center for Gene Therapy at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In the future, Prockop said, “the therapeutic idea would be to take small amounts of marrow from patients, then grow a large number of these cells, and give them back to the same patient to heal tissue.”
From The Procedings of the National Academies of Science article:
The observations here do not rigorously rule out the possibility that the improvements in the glomeruli were secondary to the lower blood glucose levels in the treated diabetic mice. However, it was striking that the human cells were found exclusively in the glomeruli and that some the cells apparently differentiated into endothelial cells. Therefore, the simplest interpretation of the data are that the engrafted hMSCs either prevented the pathological changes in the glomeruli or enhanced their regeneration.
Support for the belief that treatment for kidney damage and disease will come from ethical sources is reinforced by a report from this week’s 48th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH(TM)). Hematologists are the specialists in treating blood disorders, but their field overlaps with Oncologists in the treatment of cancers and, because of the work with bone marrow stem cell transplants, many are also involved in stem cell research.
Three of the papers presented at the ASH conference were on ethical stem cells, including one that dealt with damage from Graft vs. Host Disease in transplant patients using bone marrow stem cells, treatment for one type of “SCID” (popularly known as “bubble boy syndrome,” a genetic defect that causes an almost total lack of ability to fight off infection) and the one dealing with stem cell treatment for kidney failure.
As if these two sources were not enough evidence there’s a research article in The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (free abstract) that reports on the isolation of stem cells from the kidneys, themselves.
These reports are exciting news – and should have received much more media coverage – due to the shear numbers of patients who experience acute and chronic renal or kidney failure and disease due to infections, drug reactions, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.