An Example of Present Stem Cell Therapy Trials

The range of stem cell therapies now moving from the lab to the clinic - via the slow, expensive, and largely unnecessary regulatory process of clinical trials - are a long way advanced from the state of the art even as recently as a decade ago. Use of a patient's own cells, engineered and manipulated to improve the chances of a successful outcome, is the new standard.

As I've noted in the past, the stem cell research community must solve the issue of age-related decline in stem cell function in order to build effective therapies, as most of the medical conditions that need this sort of regenerative treatment only occur in the old:

Canadian heart-attack survivors will get first crack at an experimental therapy that's moving into clinical trials early next year. The treatment is believed to be the first in the world to test the ability of a patient's own stem cells, genetically engineered to have extra-strong healing powers, to repair damaged tissue caused by a heart attack.

To date, more than 2,000 heart-attack survivors, mostly in Europe, have received experimental injections of stem cells, often ones taken from their own bone marrow. However, the overall degree of improvement in the patients' heart function has been disappointingly modest. That has led some researchers to think the stem-cell system itself might age and lose its effectiveness in older people.

To solve this problem, [researchers have] come up with a way to turn back the biological clock of aging stem cells by genetically reprogramming them to have stronger healing properties. The theory is that these younger, more potent stem cells could grow enough new blood vessels to improve, if not fully restore, the heart's ability to pump blood.

In fact, previous studies have suggested that stem-cell therapy can still improve a patient's quality of life even if the overall improvement to heart function is incremental. "There's less development of heart failure, less hospital readmission, less bypass (surgery) and better survival. The data suggest you don't need to fully normalize. You just need to stabilize to such a degree that you're unlikely to go down that slippery slope."



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