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Medicine Science

Stem Cell Treatment Found Effective For Rare Brain Disorder 43

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-grow-him-better dept.
sciencehabit writes "Four young boys with a rare, fatal brain condition have made it through a dangerous ordeal. Scientists have safely transplanted human neural stem cells into their brains. Twelve months after the surgeries, the boys have more myelin—a fatty insulating protein that coats nerve fibers and speeds up electric signals between neurons—and show improved brain function, a new study in Science Translational Medicine reports. The preliminary trial paves the way for future research into potential stem cell treatments for the disorder, which overlaps with more common diseases such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis."
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Stem Cell Treatment Found Effective For Rare Brain Disorder

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    show improved brain function,

    Will this treatment ever be effective on politicians?

  • Once again (Score:3, Interesting)

    by azcoyote (1101073) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:25PM (#41625717)
    Adult stem cells FTW. Embryonic stem cells are not necessary.
    • Re:Once again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kribby (964773) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:34PM (#41625783)

      That might be true, but the scientific community should never have their hands tied behind their back because of religious superstitions.

      • "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam."
        -- President Obama, addressing the United Nations General Assembly
        • by the gnat (153162)

          How about the full quote? [washingtonpost.com]

          "“The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans. It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos. In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this. Because they have nothing

          • That's nice, but does nothing for "the scientific community should never have their hands tied behind their back because of religious superstitions." This quote is anti-Islamic, and Obama is quite clearly supporting religion. So...go ahead and try to reconcile the two. I'll wait.
            • This quote is anti-Islamic

              Which quote? You mean the "religious superstitions"? Excuse me, your political mind makes your mind so narrow. To me, it is just a plain comment to "any religions" that threatening science community and is not specific to Islamic.

              Obama is quite clearly supporting religion

              And another comment of yours that is blinded by your political view. You are looking at the circumstance and interpret it the way your politic is -- with your half-glass-empty attitude. One question to you in general, does this country (U.S.) have laws that said being an Islamic

          • Unlike DNS-and-BIND who gave only a partial quote for a purpose (similar to many political ads), you did a great job on giving the whole truth. Should mod yours up and mod the GP down (as flamebait).
    • Except for the whole 'only works for a rare brain disorder' bit you are correct!
      We can't learn how to fix ourselves if we use crippled cells instead of known good ones.
    • by gr8_phk (621180)

      Adult stem cells FTW. Embryonic stem cells are not necessary.

      Yes, but ever since "fetal stem cell research promotes abortion" there is really no distinction in politics. It will take a long time to brake the "stem cells = evil" connection in peoples minds - republicans in particular if you really want to stir the pot.

    • Re:Once again (Score:4, Informative)

      by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @09:10PM (#41626077)
      These happen to only be "adult stem cells" in the sense that they are not totipotent embryonic stem cells (cells from the very earliest stages after fertilization that can differentiate into any cell type), but I'd like to point out that doesn't mean they come from an adult brain. They're only "adult" by the meaning of having matured to the multipotent stage (neuronal stem cells can differentiate into neurons or glia, but not muscle cells or liver cells, for instance). The biotech company that provided these cells, StemCells, Inc. [stemcellsinc.com] cultures them from donated fetal brain tissue.

      The first production step comprises a proprietary method for purification of HuCNS-SC cells from donated fetal brain tissue procured from an FDA-registered, not-for-profit agency, in compliance with Good Tissue Practice (GTP) and all other applicable state and federal regulations. As part of the purification process, cells from the tissue are “tagged” with a monoclonal antibody that recognizes human neural stem cells. High-speed Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) is then used to isolate the cells tagged by the monoclonal antibody. The FACS-isolated HuCNS-SC cells are then placed in cell culture.

    • Except for research into cellular differentiation, where there is no substitute for ESC yet. You want to heal a sick person's liver, yeah, ESC were never the way to go. Unless you're cloning the patient, you'd never find a suitable harvest embryo that their body wouldn't reject. You want to study how a liver cell gets MADE, you should be studying ESC. Or aborted fetuses. But many more people have ethical qualms about that.
  • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:30PM (#41625755)

    These boys were said to have taken immunosuppressants for nine months before beinig injected with the stem cells. Given this, and that the disorder is genetic, I'm assuming the stem cells are from an external source.

    Since the stem cells are turning into neurons, I wonder how this will affect them in the future. Would the neurons remain without immunosuppressants? Or would the boys slowly lose these foreign cells growing up, and ultimately revert back to their original selves.

    The nervous sytem is a dangerous thing to manipulate. The effects could range from nothing to the boys taking on traits of their donor. While it's great stem cells can provide relief for this disorder, I hesitate to call it a cure. And if things go south later in their lives, it may very well be a curse.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:43PM (#41625849) Homepage

      These boys were said to have taken immunosuppressants for nine months before beinig injected with the stem cells. Given this, and that the disorder is genetic, I'm assuming the stem cells are from an external source.

      From the Fine Linked Article, the stem cells were allogenic - ie, not from the patient.

      Since the stem cells are turning into neurons, I wonder how this will affect them in the future. Would the neurons remain without immunosuppressants? Or would the boys slowly lose these foreign cells growing up, and ultimately revert back to their original selves.

      Good question, likely they will be on suppressants the rest of their lives.

      The nervous sytem is a dangerous thing to manipulate. The effects could range from nothing to the boys taking on traits of their donor. While it's great stem cells can provide relief for this disorder, I hesitate to call it a cure. And if things go south later in their lives, it may very well be a curse.

      That's why they are doing this on an invariably fatal disease. They are going to die of this disease (and quite early on IIRC) without treatment. So it is considered a 'compassionate' protocol (not withstanding philosophical discussions on whether or not this really is a compassionate thing to do). So you get to do things that are much more dangerous than your average clinical trial. But this really is the only way to approach it - well, the only way our consistent with current ethical guidelines in the US.

      • In other words, we're potentially letting the retard babies breed, and in the mean time instead of dying they get to have medically induced AIDS (sans an actual HIV infection).

        I know Eugenics isn't popular in this country, but honestly, when it comes to "you have an inheritable genetic disorder that turns your life into an expensive shitfest," can we impose physical sterilization as a condition of treatment? I mean really, these people are a drain on the monetary economy by way of insurance (insurance pay

    • by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday October 11, 2012 @08:52PM (#41625919)
      The stem cells aren't turning into neurons, actually, despite coming from "neuronal stem cells." The intent of the treatment is for the stem cells to differentiate into oligodendrocytes, which are a type of glial cell (which in turn are several types of cells that provide support functions to neurons). Oligodendrocytes are interesting cells because they wrap around neurons like insulation around a wire (which is exactly their purpose). These cells play an important role in nerve conduction and in overall brain function, but they're just tubes filled with fat.
  • FYI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The disease is early-onset Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease.

    If you were new here, you might have thought that would have made it into the summary.

    • OK, just to be fair to the editors (this one time). If TF summary had mentioned early onset Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease, would that have helped?

      I suppose they could have included the Wikipedia Link [wikipedia.org] to it, but really, if you were at all interested, you could have done this yourself (I hope).

      The Internet - it's a wonderful thing.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        The name of the disease with the link would have been helpful.

        Otherwise why don't we just use this summary for 90% of the articles out there:

        Researchers backed by an institution have just discovered a new technology. This technology promises to make lives better, and may be available to ordinary consumers soon. The story was published by a real news site with more details, but we're going to link to some guy's blog which you can read here...

        This might do for the other 10%:

        A politician just said something

  • I mean besides convince people to stop hindering research with them.
  • My spouse is a genetic counselor at a children's hospital and actually has one patient with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher. It's "one of those really bad ones" as she put it. It's hopeful that such a treatment now exists, even if it's still very experimental.
  • No cure for Aspergers? I'm back to my meaningless repetitive tasks.

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