Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stem Cell Therapy

For several years we have had the ability to use stem cell therapy in our patients. We harvest fat cells from the Gluteal region of the patient and ship them to a company Vet-Stem that concentrates the adult stem cells and ships them back to us for injection into damaged tendons and ligaments. There are now many new uses being developed such as intra-articular injection for treating arthritis or OCD lesions.
Stem cells are the precursor cells for all cells in the body. They are called pleurepotent stem cells and are the first cells that appear during embryonic development. They then mature into the various
organs and tissues of the body from brain and bone to skin and hair. It is really quite amazing and the signaling process has yet to be fully understood. What we do know is that adult stem cells are present is significant numbers in adipose tissue and bone marrow and behave in similar ways to embryonic stem cells. When these cells are injected into tissue they develop into cells that surround them, obviously receiving a signal from those cells.
There is a very interesting article published on Technology Review ( the MIT website), I really do have to get a life and start reading fiction or watching TV or something. Anyway, this article notes the GSK Glasco Smith Klein is partnering with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute to develop additional uses for stem cells. ""GSK believes stem cell science has great potential to aid the discovery of new medicines by improving the screening, identification, and development of new compounds," said Patrick Vallance, head of drug discovery at GSK, in a statement released by the company. There appears to be a way of developing stem cells that mimick damaged or diseased cells and allow drug developers to test treatment on actual diseased cells outside the body......thats way cool.

Big Pharma has mostly shied away from investing in stem-cell research. But drug screening, which some scientists say is likely to be one of the biggest near-term benefits of stem cells, is a growing area of interest.

Because stem cells can be differentiated into any type of cell in the body, they present an ideal source for screening. For example, scientists can determine how a candidate heart-disease drug affects heart cells and also look for potential side effects in liver or other cell types.

The time appears ripe for investing, because scientists can now use new reprogramming techniques to develop stem cells from patients with specific diseases. (While no one has yet reported this, word among stem-cell researchers is that it has been done.) That means they can make nerve cells from stem cells derived from an Alzheimer's patient and then examine how candidate Alzheimer's drugs affect the diseased cells.

If this works out then we can expect a rapid increase in drug development targeting many diseases that to date have been unrewarding.