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"Miraculous" Stem Cell Progress Reported In China 429

Posted by kdawson
from the we-can-cure-it-for-you-wholesale dept.
destinyland writes "In China's Guangdong Province there's been 'almost miraculous' progress in actually using stem cells to treat diseases such as brain injury, cerebral palsy, ataxia and other optic nerve damage, lower limb ischemia, autism, spinal muscular atrophy, and multiple sclerosis. One Chinese biotech company, Beike, is now building a 21,500 square foot stem cell storage facility and hiring professors from American universities such as Stanford. Two California families even flew their children to China for a cerebral palsy treatment that isn't available in the US. The founder of Beike is so enthusiastic, he says his company is exploring the concept of using stem cells to extend longevity beyond 120 years."
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"Miraculous" Stem Cell Progress Reported In China

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  • by mc1138 (718275) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:45AM (#27772795) Homepage
    They have lead in them...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eldavojohn (898314) *

      They have lead in them...

      <Ray Kurzweil>
      Oh well, it'll just be a few more years before they develop stem cells to adjust the effects of lead on the human body. Singularity [wikipedia.org], here we come!
      </Ray Kurzweil>

    • by batquux (323697) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:50AM (#27772871)

      Say what you will about the Chinese, but we could still learn a thing or two from them. At least they have the guts to try this stuff.

      • by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:01AM (#27773079)

        Say what you will about the Chinese, but we could still learn a thing or two from them.

        We've already got Fleischmann, Pons, and Taleyarkhan - what more do we need to learn about this kind of thing? Hu gives no numbers for success rates, and identifies FDA standards as a challenge. Anecdotes abound, and stats are lacking.

        • Complete bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nbauman (624611) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @01:28PM (#27775429) Homepage Journal

          I will go out on a limb and say that this story sounds to me like complete bullshit.

          First tipoff: TFA doesn't list any citations to peer-reviewed articles. (I couldn't find any on PubMed.)

          Second tipoff: Hu claims to have treated >5,087 patients for ataxia, autism, ALS, brain trauma, cerebral infarction, cerebral hemorrhage, cerebral palsy, diabetics, Guillain-Barre, encephalatropy, and spinal cord injury.

          If he could have treated any one of those diseases successfully, any major medical journal would have been happy to publish his report, doctors from all over the world would be flying over to learn his techniques, and pharmaceutical companies would be offering him wheelbarrows full of money for the rights to use his techniques. And it would have been on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

          Third tipoff: The reporter who wrote this sounds like she doesn't understand the story at all. She doesn't ask one substantive question (like, "what peer reviewed journals have you published your work in?"). She sounds like she's asking generic questions from a list of standard interview questions her business editor gave her.

          Fourth tipoff: The word "miraculous."

          I'm not taking it seriously enough to look up the citations, but Science magazine had an article a while back investigating a Chinese doctor who claimed to be treating spinal cord injured patients, and it turned out that his patients weren't getting better and he hadn't published anything significant.

          The WSJ had an article about a Chinese brain surgeon who was cutting a part of the brain to supposedly cure schizophrenia, depression, and a whole list of unrelated conditions, but he wasn't curing them, a lot of his patients were left with severe brain damage, families were paying him their life savings, he was making a fortune, American brain surgeons were shocked at his irresponsibility, and he performed several times more of these procedures than the rest of the world combined.

          A friend of mine taught a course in science journalism in China a while back, and he was appalled to find out that Chinese journalists would just make stories up. They didn't understand the difference between telling a good story and telling the truth.

          This is from the country whose pharmaceutical industry brought us contaminated heparin, contaminated milk, cough syrup that killed babies, and pet food that killed dogs.

          To quote Thomas Paine, which is more likely: that a miracle could happen or that a man could lie?

          It's not anti-Chinese to say this. In the U.S., the Chinese are some of the best scientists and science journalists.

          China, for all its many virtues and accomplishments, is suffering from the results of Communism, the Great Cultural Revolution, and now unregulated free-market capitalism.

          China is the same zoo of quack doctors and drug companies that the U.S. was in the days of Upton Sinclair, which led to the FDA. And we still have quacks here.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Fluffeh (1273756)

            and pet food that killed dogs.

            Sure, it's bad news for the dogs, but it's PARTYTIME for the restaurants!

      • by jav1231 (539129)
        Using that logic the Nazi's had balls too.
        • by Acer500 (846698)

          Using that logic the Nazi's had balls too.

          Other than Godwin-ing the thread... you think they didn't?
          What they didn't have was ethics (or morals).

      • by Rolgar (556636)

        I know of somebody here in the US who has received adult stem cell treatments for leukemia here in the U.S., so this is being done here. It's just that this particular treatment hasn't been approved here in the US, and you can't guarantee getting into a test study (if somebody in the US has the treatment ready to test), or not being in the control group even if you get in the study.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fataugie (89032)

      Thank you....that was the first thing I was thinking...that if the results of their testing doesn't match the desired outcome, how long until they start fudging the results. China's Government isn't known for being the most open and tolerant of differing opinions.

  • by jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:46AM (#27772815)

    I'll believe it when I see it replicated.

    • ...What stem cells do? Replicate.

      • by camperdave (969942) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:08AM (#27773189) Journal
        All cells do that. The thing you want to see happen is controlled differentiation. ie, cut out a diseased part of a liver, slap on a bunch of stem cells and have them convert to healthy new liver cells.
        • by Ikonoclasm (1139897) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @12:49PM (#27774793)

          I'm pretty sure the poster mean when the experimental results are replicated independently by another lab.

          Also, stem cells replicate relatively infrequently. Replication results in minor DNA damage, so the body keeps the source of new cells in as pristine a condition as possible by minimizing stem cell replication. One of the two new cells chills out until needed again while the other replicates as many time as is necessary.

          That's actually one of the major concerns for adult stem cells. Taking cells from an adult, which has already endured a lifetime of genetic damage, and using them for a stem cell line is begging for some cancers to pop up. All the nastiest cancers known to man originate from stem cells. Fetal stem cells have the benefit of being the most pristine stem cells you can get.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:54AM (#27772933) Homepage Journal

      Finding fraud in China [nature.com]: As Chinese research expands, who is looking out for faked results?

      I don't want to come off as more racist than I already do or anything, but the last few miraculous discoveries in China were faked.

      • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:00AM (#27773061)
        I don't want to come off as more racist than I already do or anything, but the last few miraculous discoveries in China were faked.

        You're not coming off as racist. That's a cultural observation, and it's entirely appropriate.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jav1231 (539129)
        I don't trust the Chinese to tell us anything truthful.

        By "Chinese" I mean the nation not the people. People who have left China for a better life I'm much more willing to trust.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Is it more noble to get the fuck out, or stay and help fix what's wrong with your country? (ObDisclaimer: I have my own plans to desert the USA. Sorry.)

  • Chinese Sputnik? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:51AM (#27772901) Journal
    If true, this might, trigger a reaction in USA, like the launch of Sputnik by USSR did back in 1957. Suddenly science will be "in" again and it will shake America from its lethargy, self absorption and provide some kind of common unifying goals.
    • by Oswald (235719)

      I have too much on my plate already to worry about this, and I don't think it affects me personally. Everybody in my family is perfectly healthy into their 100's.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      All comments till your post have been a poo-flinging contest between the democrats and republicans.

      America needs a good shake up to awaken people from this dumb political fuckfest and get their focus back on technology and science.

      In short, turn off the damn tv and pick up a book!
    • If true, this might, trigger a reaction in USA, like the launch of Sputnik by USSR did back in 1957. Suddenly science will be "in" again and it will shake America from its lethargy, self absorption and provide some kind of common unifying goals.

      The vast sums of money people would be willing to spend on cures only stem cell treatments can offer have already shaken many awake. Don't know what you've been paying attention to, but there is already fierce competition in that field. Lethargy? Maybe most of america is only starting to realize that stem cells are "kind of a thing" but biologists, biotech industry, politicians, doctors, and numerous other people have been focused on it for years. The rate of research on it is actually very fast. It ha

  • Embyonic vs. Adult. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @10:54AM (#27772937)

    Unless I misread the article. It seems they found a way to make Adult Stem Cells behave like embryonic stem cells.
    The moral issue of Stem Cells isn't the Stem Cells but the fact that if you needed Embryonic Stem Cells you needed to Abort/Terminate/Kill/(whatever verb you think best describes the process) the fetus.

    As the anti-abortion groups see abortions as killing a human life, it makes it a situation where you kill one human life to save an other or many, which is a huge ethical dilemma.

    Now if you can make adult Stem Cells work like Embryonic then the issue to the ethics is reduced, taking most major religions out of the fight. Only leaving a few Right Wing Crazies who will not even try to understand the difference.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:11AM (#27773245)
      I have never heard of ANYONE who opposed adult stem cell research. You put up this straw man of "Right Wing Crazies" who don't understand the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells. As far as I can tell, the idea that there are "Right Wing Crazies" who oppose adult stem cell research is a fabrication of people who wish to marginalize all opponents to embryonic stem cell research rather than engage them in debate for the support of the general public.
      • by cptnapalm (120276)

        You're being reasonable. You must stop this immediately. It is against the Slashdot Terms of Service with regards to any political or ethical discussion (hereafter referred to as "flame war").

    • by VShael (62735) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:20AM (#27773365) Journal

      The moral issue of Stem Cells isn't the Stem Cells but the fact that if you needed Embryonic Stem Cells you needed to Abort/Terminate/Kill/(whatever verb you think best describes the process) the fetus.

      Actually, you're playing right into the hands of the pro-life movement by saying that.
      It is NOT (repeat NOT) that you needed to kill/abort the fetus so as to get stem cells.

      The fetus was aborted already. It is now medical waste. The only question is if you can use the medical waste to save lives, or not.

      The distinction is an important one, but one which is all to easily overlooked by those who wish to perpetrate the image of scientists aborting fetuses so they can get their hands on those precious stem cells.

      • by VShael (62735)

        Addendum, in case it's not clear :
        It's the difference between using the organs of a dead person in organ transplant, and murdering someone to steal their kidneys/lungs/heart etc...

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        You don't think that a market would pop up for that?
      • by grumpyman (849537)
        I don't understand: so what makes the "fetus was aborted already" in the first place?
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Yeah, so I've gone through this thread and it doesn't appear that most /. users know the difference between Embryonic and Adult SC either.
    • by saforrest (184929)

      The moral issue of Stem Cells isn't the Stem Cells but the fact that if you needed Embryonic Stem Cells you needed to Abort/Terminate/Kill/(whatever verb you think best describes the process) the fetus.

      First off, embryonic stem cells were/are harvested from embryos which had already been terminated, usually for the purposes of in-vitro fertilization.

      It still strikes me as odd how little protest there is among the life-begins-at-conception folks against in-vitro fertilization. You're creating n fertilized e

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:02AM (#27773089)
    The article is propaganda. It starts by saying that the U.S. lost ground by Bush limiting embryonic stem cell research and then gives as an example a breakthrough in Japan using adult stem cells. If that is an example of the critical thinking applied by the author to the claims, I tend to believe that this whole operation is a scam.
    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:19AM (#27773343)

      Limiting funding for embryonic stem cells did slow research into adult stem cells. Specifically, it slowed research into just what is and isn't possible to treat with stem cells. Adult stem cells don't function exactly as embryonic stem cells do, generally embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming any tissue in the body where as adult stem cells are limited to a subset of them.

      For every tissue, it is probably possible to produce an adult stem cell that will be capable of becoming that tissue but it costs time, money, and equipment to create it. That same time and effort could have gone directly to working on and testing the treatment. So, yes you are correct that adult stem cells can probably be used to cure the same diseases embryonic stem cells can. But you are also wrong if you insist that the lack of embryonic stem cell funding didn't slow that research down, leading to thousands of untimely deaths.

      That's not a judgement on the ethics of the situation, I'm just trying to lay out the facts as I see them.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        So the US is the only country that can develop medical technologies?
      • You seem to be saying that it is easier to develop treatments with embryonic stem cells and then replicate those treatments with adult stem cells. The problem with that argument is that there are several treatments ALREADY in use using adult stem cells. The first treatment using embryonic stem cells will only enter trials later this year.
        So, it seems to me that you don't see the facts as they are.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by G-Man (79561)
        Well, the facts as you see them seem to be parsed in a very particular way. Bush's decision only prohibited federal funding of new embryonic stem cell lines. Any state was free to fund new embryonic stem cell lines - and California did. Any private entity was free to create new embryonic stem cell lines. Researchers could receive federal funding for the embryonic stem cell lines already in existence. So, let's review: Federal/New - NO, Federal/Existing - YES, State/New - YES, State/Existing - YES, Private/N
      • by bendodge (998616)

        You are correct that embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming any tissue in the body whereas adult stemcells are limited. ESC's turn become random tissues with gusto, often growing bones and teeth inside cultures. They're extremely hard to control. Adult stems cells are much easier, and pluripotent adult stem cells have almost the same capabilities of ECS's. So ECS's really aren't needed.

        Additionally, last I checked 72 successful treatments have been devloped from ACS's, and a total of, er, um, 0 from E

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Myji Humoz (1535565)

      The environment towards biology research having anything to do with stem cells has gotten very hostile over the last 6 years. I do part time work in a biomed engineering lab at my university (UVA), and between many of the higher-up administrators not knowing the difference between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells and many organizations (PETA and co.) protesting any publication of clinical models involving animal research, it's difficult to get anything really innovative approved. It's gotten to the

  • by Acer500 (846698) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:03AM (#27773113) Journal
    It looks like something out of MIT's Technology Review (far-off sensationalist, yet plausible in a sci-fi sort of way)... but this is the kind of article I'd enjoy seeing more often here on Slashdot

    Props to the submitter.

    By the way, if this is even one-tenth as good as it looks in the article, it'll be awesome. For example, from the article:

    One example is the recovery of a nearly blind sixteen-year-old girl, Macie Morse, who recently got her learnerâ(TM)s permit and started driving.

    She came to one of our hospitals for treatment in July 2006, with 20/4,000 vision in one eye and only light perception in the other due to optic nerve hypoplasia.

    After treatment, Macie now has 20/80 vision in one eye and 20/400-plus in the other!

  • Dumb Question... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:11AM (#27773243) Homepage
    I know very little of medicine and biology but how do stem cells treatments work? I imagine stem cells being used to treat patients don't come from the patients themselves right? If so, wouldn't the body reject it? And what stops stem cells from becoming tumors? From TFA, "An article in last week's PLoS Medicine describes a teenage boy's brain tumor after receiving a fetal stem cell treatment in Russia." Basically, in theory and in simple terms, how are stem cell treatments suppose to work?
    • Re:Dumb Question... (Score:4, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:27AM (#27773475) Homepage Journal

      how are stem cell treatments suppose to work?

      Using the intarwebs? YOU FAIL IT!!! [wikipedia.org]

    • by jbeaupre (752124)
      (forgive me if I cover stuff you know as part of an explanation). Your body is already chock full of stem cells. It's part of regular tissue repair and growth. As an adult, these stem cells have become specialized. But they get the job done. Most of the time. Some tissues have insufficient stem cells for some injuries (brain injury). More are needed. Some stem cells work incorrectly (cancer, mutation, genetic disease) and need to be replaced. But where to get them? Sometimes you can take specializ
  • he says his company is exploring the concept of using stem cells to extend longevity beyond 120 years.

    Maybe it's just me, but I believe that longer average lifespans are not a good idea at all.

    It's just more mouths to feed, more people farting, shitting, throwing out trash... If we're planning on extending lifespans, we should at least implement better family planning across the globe, otherwise, we'd just be starving hell of a lot more people in the long run.

    • by hansraj (458504)

      If human history has anything to tell us, it is that problems don't get fixed before the problems arise.

  • by Gruff1002 (717818)

    Miraculous and China in the same sentence. Until their results are duplicated I would regard this announcement with great skepticism.

  • Methuselah lived 900 years.
    Methuselah lived 900 years.
    But who calls that livin' when no gal will give in
    to no man who's 900 years?

  • Societal cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by serano (544693) * on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:36AM (#27773613)

    How are we going to pay for an increasingly older population? Will they be older and healthy and still working, or older, on expensive medications, and requiring expensive procedures to keep them living?

  • Ethical nightmare (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:43AM (#27773715) Homepage
    You know why the Chinese are "ahead" in this field? It's because of the total lack of ethics. Nobody listened to me a few years ago when I was saying this, but that was before the intentional poisoning of babies became an international story. There are no scruples attached to morally shaky ground, and heck, outright evil is OK too.

    (intellectual weakness: shouting "but the USA is worse" every time someone mentions any negative trait of any entity anywhere)

  • Wait until (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Thursday April 30, 2009 @11:46AM (#27773773)

    Wait until someone actually gets cured. This needs to show more than a placebo effect, and proof of cure from someone outside of the actors. The people who they claim to have cured may not have had anything wrong with them in the first place.

    This sounds a lot like other snake-oil salesmen in the medical business. A lot of initial hype, and when results fail to appear they just quietly disappear again, taking their money with them. They do make a LOT of money on such scams, which is why they are so popular. $15,000USD per treatment would bring in a lot of money from desperate people.

  • ... to ADULT Stem Cell Research (ASCR?) so all these collective panties won't get bunched up every time a new research report or story comes out? That'd be nice. Thanks.

    ~AA

  • The question is, are the treatments requiring genotype specific stem cells?

    If so, where exactly do you get them? Stored cord blood is one source. Another is a (very) close relative. But there is another very exciting source - a clone of the person. You don't actually have to let the clone develop very far to get stem cells, but what you do need is a real, developing clone.

    The only problem is, in order to exploit this type of treatment, you need to have to be able to make a clone. How much do you think

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