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Biotech

Paralyzed Woman Walks Again 1196

Posted by Hemos
from the better-than-faith-healing dept.
mgv writes "It's been promised for years, but it's just become a reality. Stem cells taken from cord blood have enabled a paralysed woman in South Korea to walk again for the first time in 20 years. The details are on the Sydney Morning Herald Site which requires registration, but can also be seen on the World Peace Herald. Too late for Christopher Reeve, but not for the thousands of new injuries worldwide each year or the millions of paralysed people from other diseases in the world."
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Paralyzed Woman Walks Again

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  • Adult stem cells (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:53PM (#10943367)
    Cord blood stem cells are considered to be adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. Just wanted to get that out before all the Bush bashing starts.
    • by bombadillo (706765) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:13PM (#10943594)
      However, embryonic stem cells are the cells which hold the real promise for research. This modern debate on embryonic stem cells is similar to the ban on using corpses for medical training and analysis in 16th century Europe. Sure you could learn some things by cutting open a dog. However, the real learning and advancement began once Human corpses were allowed for Medical research. History will view the ban on stem cells the same way. Think of all the good medicine we would not have today if some brave people did not push the issue of using corpses for medical research. Let the Bush Bashing resume.
      • by nwbvt (768631) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:22PM (#10943725)
        Embryonic stem cell research was not banned. Federal funding was given for embryonic stem cell research but limited to pre-existing lines.

        There is a huge difference between the two.

        • by magefile (776388) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:27PM (#10943797)
          Pre-existing lines that are contaminated with pathogens and mouse cells, many of which have reached the end of their useful lifespans. It's effectively a ban on federal funding, period.
        • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:29PM (#10943829)
          >There is a huge difference between the two

          Yet in practice there isn't. A lot of these lines have been ruined by mouse DNA and other issues. The best stem cell research, predictically, isnt from these lines but from others and most notably from foreign nations.

          Bush could have left the Clinton-era laws alone, but chose to give this as a handout to his religious right base. Its dirty politics any way you slice it. The moral issue is as manufactured as the PC you're using to browse this site.
      • Re:Adult stem cells (Score:5, Interesting)

        by RealProgrammer (723725) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:22PM (#10944366) Homepage Journal
        • However, embryonic stem cells are the cells which hold the real promise for research.

        Embryonic cells are growing too fast, and are too unstable. They end up growing into a mess, since they can't be told what to grow into.

        Adult cells are by definition those that are stable, having already grown into whatever their "children" will be. Embryonic cells (found in embryos with 1024 or fewer cells) can still grow into any type of cell, which we can't yet control.

        It's true that embryonic cells hold "promise", but it comes at a cost. While we're trying to figure out (through the research you want) how to keep a group of embryonic stem cells from growing into an amorphous blob of cells for a discordant mixture body parts, how much effort and money are we spending on it that could be better spent on adult cell research, or even more efficiently by developing a cholesterol-enhancing french fry?

        There's only so much money to go around. It's a balance between the far-off possibility of taming the embryonic cells versus the reality of using adult cells to fix broken bodies today.

        See:http://www.stemcellresearch.org/stemcellreport [stemcellresearch.org]

    • Re:Adult stem cells (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VivianC (206472)
      When my daughter was born, we donated her umbilical cord for research just like this. It was a huge hassle. Maybe break-throughs like this will help to make the process simpler so more people can participate. You can read more about it here. [marrow.org]

  • by gunmenrock (742305) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:54PM (#10943377)
    But can they use stem cells to make my wife put out again?

    Mundus vult decipi decipiatur ergo.
    -Xaviera Hollander
  • Yay! Cord blood! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Masque (20587) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:55PM (#10943391)
    Perhaps this will help cool the American debate over embryonic stem cells.

    Yes, Karen, you can get stem cells without harvesting embryos. No, really!

    --
    Every six seconds, another American hates Milkman Dan.
    • by foniksonik (573572)
      There was never any debate over adult stem cells... there's still a debate over embryonic stem cells...

      This news just gives more fuel for anti-embryonic stem cell groups to point at and say:

      "Chalk up another victory for adult stem cell research... what is that now 79 to 0? Why are we studying embryonic stem cells?"

      I tend to agree with that sentiment.. seems like the embryonic research is turning into a big waste of money... but then again it has about 10 years of work to catch up on so it may yet prove i
  • by stecoop (759508) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:55PM (#10943392) Journal
    Ok George Bush didn't outlaw Steam Cell Research; He ceased giving federal funding for new steam cell lines. And remember he was the first president to start giving money to this kind of research. At least read his statment [whitehouse.gov] first and then search google [google.com] to get the facts [about.com]

    Even after that before you start bashing, ask who should be in charge of developing medicine - the government or industry?
    • by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:11PM (#10943568) Homepage Journal
      The government should be in the business for sure. The choice you give is a false-dichotomy. Is anyone really sugesting that those are the only two choices?

      The difference between Republican presidents and a hypothetical liberal president (we haven't had a liberal president in many many years) is that the Republicans would give companies research money ("corporate welfare") and then allow the companies to patent their discoveries for the purpose of making the most profit from every person who needs that medicine. At some level, there's going to be someone who is too poor to get cured.

      The hypothetical liberal president would also fund research, but publicly funded research would belong to the people who paid for it: the taxpayers. Everyone would have access to the new medicines, and even the poorest would be treated with them.

      Of course, you're thinking "that's not fair to the companies, and they'll go out of business". Note that I never said that. If companies want to make money, they can fund their own research with their own money, and sell their drugs themselves. Liberals aren't opposed to business and people getting rich. Liberals are just opposed to them getting rich at the expense of the taxpayers, or in an unfair/unethical manner.

    • by Arkhan (240130) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:12PM (#10943582)
      Okay, I'll bite on the last part, at least.

      Your question is misleading. The government should be in charge of funding basic scientific research that drives forward our understanding of physics, biology, chemistry, etc, and creates the platform on which industry can develop specific products.

      Why should the government do this? Because the results of fundamental research must be completely open and available to all scientists and entrepeneurs who would do something useful with it. Industry will *never* do that.

      Government-funded researchers invented the calculus, the mechanical (and electronic) computer, and the internal combustion engine, and gave that research to the public, so that commercial and charitable use could be made of them. Industry, on the other hand, is busy trying to patent your *genes*!

      "Stem cell research", as you can tell from the name, is not medicine, nor is it a commercial product. It is a fundamental piece of scientific research that advances our entire base of technology.

      So yes, the government should fund it.
      • by mforbes (575538) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:21PM (#10943719)
        Government-funded researchers invented the calculus

        Um... Isaac Newton invented calculus when he was still a student at Trinity College. The school was on break for two years as a result of disease sweeping the area, and having little else to do, he spent his idle time thinking very productively.

        There was no government funding involved in his inventing calculus, sorry. He invented it out of curiosity, not because he was paid to do so.
    • by SunPin (596554) <slashspam@ c y b e r i s t a . com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:17PM (#10943657) Homepage
      ask who should be in charge of developing medicine - the government or industry?


      Be real for a second and review industry's track record. Drugs for phantom depression. Drugs for sex enhancement. Drugs for obesity. None of these result from real societal problems and the greatest tragedy is that they aren't funding smaller problems with the major profits. They are just inventing more problems.


      Perhaps a better question is "who do you want to define research priorities--government or industry?"


      A government of the people should

      • Drugs for obesity. None of these result from real societal problems...

        My wife talks to diabetics all day on the phone as her job. Most of them are 200+ pounds, many in the 400+ range.

        Obesity is one of the biggest problems facing our society today. People lose their eye site, limbs, mobility, and quality of life. All for a cheeseburger.

        This problem isn't invented by the pharmaceutical industry, it's invented by gluttons.

    • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:21PM (#10943714) Homepage
      That's true, but make no mistake that Bush's policies have done more to hinder progress than accelerate it.

      For starters, it's a bureaucratic nightmare for labs--if so much as a single "bad" sample makes its way into an experiment, they can lose all government funding in a heartbeat. Labs end up having to spend a surprising and frustrating amount of time and money simply to meet the ever-growing list of compliance demands for federal funding. Angling for private funding is all well and good, but there's a severe lack of funding for pure science; corporate sponsors are far more interested in applied science. Applied science is important, but pure science is equally important and would suffer badly if it weren't for federal funding.

      Second, the stem cells in question are coming from discarded embryos from in-vitro fertilization clinics which are already slated for destruction. To ban these stem cells from research is hypocritical, at root--if the issue at hand is the destruction of a human life, they should be fighting just as hard to outlaw the practice of freezing embryos in the first place. That they're attacking the scientific link in this chain suggests that they're more against using these wasted embryos for scientific study (which, for various banal reasons, is seen as the arch-enemy of religion by many,) than they are upset about the wasting of embryos in the first place.

      It's a shame that the debate such that the scientific community is being made out to be the villian here. The real villian is the IVF industry; science is simply stepping in and trying to conduct incredibly promising research with something that'd otherwise be flushed down the drain without so much as a second thought.

  • Other Links (Score:5, Informative)

    by lamz (60321) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:56PM (#10943394) Homepage Journal
    No subscription required for the story [rednova.com] here, either.
  • by brandonp (126) * <brandon@petersen.gmail@com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:56PM (#10943402) Homepage

    This is absolutely exciting, stem cell research potentially producing real results. And even better, by use of umbilical cord stem cells. Results without the ethical issues.



    I just can't wait to see this research be verified. Seems like too many scientific research teams release their results early and without complete verification, hoping to get more funding from the buzz created.



    In the end, this is really exciting. Can't wait to see how this develops.



    Brandon Petersen
    Get Firefox! [spreadfirefox.com]

    • by Otter (3800)
      I just can't wait to see this research be verified. Seems like too many scientific research teams release their results early and without complete verification, hoping to get more funding from the buzz created.

      And this South Korean group has a track record of making at least as much noise as progress. (Check for the previous articles linked here about them.)

      It would be fantastic if it works, and Chosun University isn't a fly-by-night institution but I'm having trouble working up much optimism. We'll see.

      BT

  • by rdc_uk (792215) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:59PM (#10943427)
    How much better science is this than rubber tails for dolphins?!?

    Sounds like good work to me.
  • by manifestobot (766769) on Monday November 29, 2004 @12:59PM (#10943440)
    Considering this real, practical success using cord blood-derived stem cells, I honestly wonder why there's such a push for using embryonic stem cells. Can anyone enlighten me as to why we can't just use cord blood cells (instead of embryonic) and make the whole stem cell controversy go away?
  • by sepluv (641107) <`blakesley' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:02PM (#10943461) Homepage
    The article doesn't explain the important thing which is how they managed to inject enough stem cells into adult (for the adult to not reject them) from the small amount of blood available in an umbillical cord. There has only traditionally been enough (that the body's normal blood's anti-body won't attack) for a child's blood. Unless, they are talking about injecting it into the actually spine or something...I'm confused...
  • Hold on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Auckerman (223266) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:07PM (#10943526)
    A press conference is not a peer reviewed journal. A woman walking in from of a camera does not mean a single stem cell helped her. Wait for journal publication, review, and commentary from experts before going around talking about how great this is.
    • Excellent point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by artemis67 (93453) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:20PM (#10943695)
      My sentiments, exactly; I wish I had mod points.

      I had a friend who broke his neck from a fall, so I've researched the topic a little bit. It is possible, in a very small number of cases, that people will spontaneously regrow the damaged nerves. This could be one of those cases.

      One isolated incident does not make for a medical breakthrough. They need to demonstrate that this is repeatable.
    • Re:Hold on (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hackstraw (262471) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:27PM (#10943800)
      A press conference is not a peer reviewed journal. A woman walking in from of a camera does not mean a single stem cell helped her. Wait for journal publication, review, and commentary from experts before going around talking about how great this is.

      The guys at Scaled Composites collected $10,000,000 without a peer reviewed journal of their scientific achievement.
  • by syntap (242090) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:09PM (#10943542)
    Because now you have to grow the fetus into an embryo, kill it, and harvest the cord to get the cells. How is this better ?!?

    Why can't we just get the stem cells from plants? Stems are abundant with them!
  • Great if true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shrapnull (780217) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:16PM (#10943634)
    The sound you just heard is that of a million scientists calibrating their bullshit meters. Seriously, if this is true it presents a moral and ethical alternative to those problems that have limited embryonic research, but bear in mind: Adult stem cells are not the same as ebryonic. They are more finicky (they are matched like organ donors), they create a limited number of cell types within the body and they are difficult to extract from an umbilical or placenta (which must be frozen immediately after birth). I would be more interested in stem cell warehouses for DNA types. Once you're born they save your umbilical stem cells like medical records (huge warehouses) free for one to use as needed throughout their life. The cash cow for the medical industry will be doing anything with embryonic stem cells, which are more easily ported across gene pools, and can replicate any cell within the human body. Don't make it a Bush/Kerry or USA thing. It's really not. That whole beef was about using government money to fund new embryonic strains.
  • by dead sun (104217) <aranach&gmail,com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:17PM (#10943643) Homepage Journal
    Anybody have a link to a respected medical journal that's running the findings of this research?

    I really, really hope that what's being reported is true, but I'd really like to see it in a peer reviewed journal and have the findings reproduced before getting too excited. Because things like cold fusion have been announced via press release before, with no journal paper forthcoming. Without it being reproducable it's just another faith healing.

    That said, please, please be good, reproducable research.

  • by euthman (209060) <uthman@airmail.net> on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:18PM (#10943664) Homepage
    In lieu of any detailed description of this case in peer-reviewed scientific literature, this news item should be taken under advisement with appropriate skepticism.

    The spinal cord is an enormously complex structure, the exact neural connections of which are formed in early embryonic life. That you could simply inject multipotential cells into a damaged cord and expect them to differentiate and grow into mature neurons, complete with appropriate connections, is asking an awful lot. In addition, in this patient, "paralyzed" for two decades, you have the issue of muscles, bones, and joints that haven't been in use all that time.


    It would be wonderful if this account is true, but I'm not getting my hopes up until I see more of the fine print.

    • by pz (113803) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:15PM (#10944280) Journal
      Agreed. IAAN (I am a neuroscientist) and at the Society for Neuroscience meeting a few weeks ago, there was a substantial amount of work being presented on spinal chord repair using stem cells. One researcher's results were scary: while the subject (rats if I recall correctly) were able to recover from SRI (Spinal Chord Injury) with the injection of stem cells, they developed allodynia, the condition where normal touch sensation of the skin is painful. This was because stem cells were not selective enough when making connections to existing fibers, and many of the new connections were incorrect. While this research does not mean the Korean team hasn't managed a substantial advance, it does mean that things aren't as simple as we might hope, and one should definitely view the Korean results carefully.
  • All over the world (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaos.geo (587126) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:18PM (#10943665)
    Success stories like this have popped up all over the world lately (although none as wonderful as this last one).
    A couple of weeks ago, a brazilian woman who had recently had a stroke was helped by a stem cell transplant.
    Although doctors claim the healing could have happened naturally, they also report that "there is biological activity (in the area affected by the stroke)... "
    Interesting, let's hope all these stories help build a united front.
    The link here http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=3 1&art_id=qw1100886480700B243
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:37PM (#10943905) Journal
    - "Hah! Take that redneck Bushies! Nyah nyah nyah neener neener neener" --- 25%

    - "Uh, this is the sort of stem cells the Bush Administration supports, you ignorant dumbass." --- 25%

    - "Well, yeah, but, Dumbya cut funding! And this is you: duh doo duh doo duh doo" --- 25%

    - "Uh, Bush was the first to federally fund ANY stem cell research. And this is you: bibblebibblebibble pppbbbffffttttt!" --- 25%

    And then the same people wonder why nothing works right anymore.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:41PM (#10943954) Homepage
    While this is without a doubt something amazing and even blessed (I use the term loosely since I am atheist) it is only a glimpse into the potential for stem cells. Personally, I am very very moved by this event.

    But as one article [rednova.com] discusses, the whole point of using embryonic stem cells is that they are undifferentiated. The use of the cells used in the treatment of paralysis were supposedly cord stem cells and are more limited in which ways the body can put them to use. Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, can in theory, be used to create ANY cell type in the human body. That is a tremendous difference.

    Ethical debates will persist from now until whenever but the moment people outgrow their need to believe in mythology, we'll make some better progress. I'm hopeful that there should be an ethically acceptable method for collecting embryonic stem cells so that we can make the real medical miracles happen.
    • While I agree that embyonic stem cells are undifferentiated, I must point that, being undifferentiated as they are, embryonic stem cells can change into anything, including a nasty teratoma, which seems to occur quite frequently.

      In a different subject, I think that the problem with embryonic stem cell research is its potential to undermine human dignity. What would the world look like if we knowingly bred people just to harvest their organs/cells/meat(?) out?

      I'll be the first to acknowledge that this seems

  • by dokebi (624663) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:42PM (#10943964)
    with some additional details here [hankooki.com]
  • WWLBSN? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by microcars (708223) on Monday November 29, 2004 @01:48PM (#10944031) Homepage
    What Would Laura Bush Say Now?

    "We don't even know that stem cell research will provide cures for anything -- much less that it's very close" to yielding major advances"

    reference link [usatoday.com]

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