Media Supresses Adult Stem Cell Breakthrough for Heart Valves
Investor's Business Daily, April 3, 2007
Heart disease is a silent killer, but equally hushed are reporters, politicians and activists who disregard a politically incorrect cure. Grown from your own body’s stem cells, we may not be that far away from transplanted hearts.
A breakthrough that is praiseworthy has been achieved by Sir Magdi Yacoub, who is a professor of cardiac surgery at Imperial College London. For hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from a certain type of heart disease, Yacoub’s findings could end this illness.
Yacoub, who has been called the world’s leading heart surgeon, worked with his team to grow tissue that functions identical to human heart valves. Prof. Yacoub’s team may have found a way of providing replacement heart valves to the estimated 600,000 people (according to the World Health Organization) who will need them by 2010.
These findings may come as a revelation to some because the media has decided not to follow the story at all. Why would such a remarkable breakthrough not garner any attention? The reason was because the findings did not involve federal funding for embryonic stem cells nor were the heart valves created from embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells extracted from bone marrow were coaxed into growing the heart valve tissue. This was yet another example of adult stem cells and their contributions to humanity, far greater than anything embryonic stem cells have accomplished.
A working heart valve could be available for human patients within three to five years. Yacoub and his team used specially designed collagen “scaffolds” to grow the tissue in the shape of actual human heart valves.
Yacoub says that most people will not need individualized treatment, so the month long process of growing a suitably-sized amount of tissue from a patients own stem cells won’t be a deterring factor. The majority of people would benefit from tissue grown in advance from a variety of stem cells. Removing one’s appendix is a routine procedure, and heart valve replacement may someday be as simple.
The living tissue of the stem cell grown valves are dynamic and can change shape as required, unlike the valves their artificial counterparts that just open and shut. Thus, the heart is not compromised by a foreign object, and it can pump freely and without obstruction of any kind.
The valves never need to be replaced, since they grow old as people grown old. Children can have the same replacement heart valve for the duration of their entire lives.
An even bigger goal is on the horizon for Yacoub and his team at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex. They want to grow an entire human heart in the laboratory.
He says, "It is an ambitious project but not impossible. If you want me to guess, I'd say 10 years."
In order to prevent post-op complications, patients often require a lifetime of drugs. But the specially grown tissue solves the rejection problem that artificial valves present. To see how well the lab grown tissue performs as part of an actual circulatory system, the team will implant tissue into animals later this year.
As if this research was not enough, another team in Switzerland has achieved nearly identical results. Dr. Simon Hoerstrup described how stem cells derived from the amniotic fluid of a mother could be used to grow heart valve tissue without harming the fetus. The tissue from non-embryonic stem cells could then be immediately implanted into a child upon birth if he or she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease.
In order to repair organs that have suffered tissue damage after heart attacks, Johns Hopkins University researchers were able to use stem cells from the heart tissue of adult pigs and in similar fashion as the already mentioned research, heal the animals organs. These findings also received almost no media coverage.
It is as if embryonic stem cell research is the only kind in existence and there are no other options.
So the question stands: When will the showboat politicians and media confess that research using stem cells from other sources is in fact more promising that embryonic stem cell research?
The answer may be never. But a safe bet would be when the healthy hearts of pigs actually fly.