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Adult Stem Cell Research May Hold Promise for Diabetes Cure

By Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
March 26, 2004


Gainesvile, FL (LifeNews.com) -- New evidence suggests that adult stem cells may hold the key to unlocking the mystery behind diabetes. The latest findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that adult stem cell research is superior to embryonic stem cell research, which involves the killing of human embryos.

Researchers at the University of Florida report that they've cultured adult bone marrow stem cells to become insulin-producing cells. The resulting cells managed to bring blood glucose levels back to normal in diabetic laboratory animals.

Previous research has indicated that pancreatic stem cells and liver stem cells can also produce insulin. However, scientific experts say that marrow cells are easier to harvest.

Researchers frequently introduce stem cells through microsurgery, but doctors hope to eventually attach therapeutic cells to parts of the body that are easy to reach, such as the back of the neck.

The University of Florida study showed that stem cells stabilized the glucose levels of lab animals for more than three months. Still, scientists are not certain if humans would experience the same therapeutic results.

According to the Florida researchers, the implanted stem cells produced insulin in the same amounts that healthy cells do.

Researchers around the world have been reporting favorable results from adult stem cell research.

One recent study at Duke University showed that adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood can rebuild heart tissue that has been damaged.

According to Duke University researchers, the new study provides "convincing clinical evidence" that the stem cells are "differentiating themselves into brain, heart, liver, and bone cells."

Program director Joanne Kurtzberg said, "Now we have examined heart tissue on a cellular level and have proven that these donor cells are not only present in heart tissue but they have become heart muscle cells."

To date, no cures have been reported from embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cell research is opposed by pro-life groups because it involves the destruction of innocent life.

Bradley Mattes, Executive Director of Life Issues Institute, a pro-life organization based in Cincinnati, noted that embryonic stem cell research, or ESCR, has failed to show any promise in fighting diabetes. Yet, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation has been a strong promoter of ESCR.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Paul Billings, who has studied the impact of stem cells and even co-founded a stem cell bank, said hopes for major new medical treatments based on ESCR were "very remote."

Billings added, "The problems are so complex that we're not likely to be able to tackle them with the stem cell gambit in the foreseeable future."

ESCR in China has proven a disaster.

Once fetal tissue was injected into a patient's brain, the patient developed a brain tumor and died. The fetal cells transformed into all types of human tissue within the brain, including hair, skin, and bone.

An ESCR study at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was equally devastating.

At the time, Dr. Paul E. Greene said patients who had been implanted with embryonic stem cells "chew constantly, their fingers go up and down, their wrists flex and distend. It's a real nightmare. And we can't selectively turn it off. No more fetal transplants."

While Harvard Medical School is now touting fetal stem cell research, the school's own studies indicate adult stem cell research may eliminate the need for ESCR. A Harvard study showed that adult stem cells could be effective in combating not only diabetes, but more than 50 other ailments as well.

Diane Irving, Ph.D., a former biochemist with the National Cancer Institute, said, "I have argued that adult stem cells are better because they are closer to the stage of differentiation than embryonic or fetal cells--therefore they do not have as long a distance to travel differentiation-wise as the younger cells. Therefore there is far less of a chance for genetic errors to be accumulated in the implanted cells and less side effects for the patient to deal with."

Related web sites:

Life Issues Institute - http://www.lifeissues.org
Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics - http://www.stemcellresearch.org

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