To date, there are hundreds of adult stem cell therapies available worldwide, and increasingly in the USA. But NOT ONE therapy using embryonic stem cells. Which is why people go overseas to Mexico, Thailand, and Panama for treatment of our most difficult diseases. Like we have said many times to our students in one of our courses: If you can find any study whatsoever that successfully used Embryonic Stem Cells for any patient treatment, please share it with the class and collect your “A” for the course. Good luck with that!
Actually, one of our fine graduate students located the following paper from Robert Lanza’s lab purporting to demonstrate the effective use of embryonic stem cells in macular degeneration.
Dr. Lanza is one of America’s most gifted scientists, and along with most other American stem cell scientists, has devoted his career thus far to searching in vain for a therapeutic use for embryonic stem cells that is just not going to be achieved. Our student received an “A” for the course, but not because of this and here is why:
[Excerpt] “Four treated eyes developed visually significant progression of cataract—two patients (one with age-related macular degeneration and one with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy) requiring cataract surgery 6–12 months after surgery, and two patients with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy undergoing elective surgery after the first year). One eye in a patient with Stargardt’s macular dystrophy developed severe vitreous cavity inflammation consistent with acute postoperative endophthalmitis 4 days after the surgery (appendix). Vitreous cultures grew Staphylococcus epidermidis, and the inflammation resolved over 2 months after intravitreal antibiotic injection, antibiotic eye drops, and discontinuation of immunosuppression. Importantly, cultures and Gram stains of the hESC-retinal pigment epithelium preparations were negative. Vision returned to baseline by month 3 and there was no evidence of subretinal infection.”
Wow, sounds great!!!??? This highly touted “follow-up report” is actually more of a write up of adverse post-surgical reactions. They are really trying hard, but our position that there is no ESC treatment stands. The principle “evidence” is two fold: (1) imaging in the eyes post surgery demonstrating changes in morphology but not demonstrating any objective changes in vision; (2) improvement in “letter scores” on subjective eye test.
The most telling portion of the entire paper is:
“Unlike adult and fetal tissue, a central feature of hESC is that they have the capacity to proliferate indefinitely without undergoing senescence, providing an unlimited source of cells as starting material for directed differentiation. Cell lines can be tested to ensure that disease-associated genetic abnormalities are absent. Another crucial advantage of using cells derived from hESC is that the stage of in-vitro differentiation can be controlled to maximise survival and functionality during and after transplantation.”
Still fighting the “ESC’s are better” battle. Here is the same paragraph with the crucial term that was left out:
“Unlike adult and fetal tissue, a central feature of hESC is that they have the capacity to proliferate indefinitely [in vitro] without undergoing senescence, providing an unlimited source of cells as starting material for directed differentiation. Cell lines can be tested to ensure that disease-associated genetic abnormalities are absent. Another crucial advantage of using cells derived from hESC is that the stage of in-vitro differentiation can be controlled to maximise survival and functionality during and after transplantation.”
By comparison, autologous adult stem cells derived from a specific patient do not require immune-suppression, do not require in vitro culture as they can be used directly, do not need to “proliferate indefinitely” in vitro since they are used fresh within 2 hours of collection, and differentiation need not be controlled because as soon as the autologous cells are transplanted, they automatically differentiate into the appropriate cells based on cellular environment.
And for all we know, if vision did in fact improve, which is doubtful in light of the severe side effects, it may have been due to the surgical intervention itself causing a beneficial inflammation leading to the results reported. Do you wonder how much pressure was on these patients to report good results?