Examples of Diseases Successfully Treated With Stem Cells
Current clinical uses of umbilical, placental and other adult stem cells include the successful treatment of the following diseases:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Bone and cartilage deformities
- Cancer (brain, breast, ovarian, renal cell, melanoma, leukemia, and other types)
- Cerebral palsy
- Corneal scaring
- Crone's disease
- Heart disease
- Repair of cardiac tissue after heart attack (please see separate section, below)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Multiple myelomas
- Muscular dystrophy
- Neural blastoma
- Parkinson's Disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Spinal chord damage
- Systemic lupus
Additionally, placental and umbilical cord stem cells have been successfully implemented in the repair of virtually all types of tissue, whether cardiac, neural, skeletal, muscular, organ, etc.
Herein we include further descriptions of successful treatments with adult stem cells. In the following studies, it is important to note that the stem cells were not rejected, even if they had not been originally derived from the patient.
At The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, researchers took advantage of the fact that tumors produce adhesion molecules and inflammation processes, which attract stem cells. The scientists inserted a gene for one of the interferons (a molecule that stimulates a localized immune response) within umbilical cord stem cells, and then injected the umbilical cord stem cells into mice with melanoma, breast cancer, and other cancers. The umbilical cord cells "homed in" on the cancerous cells, and started releasing an immune stimulating molecule. Some of the animals had a very beneficial effect. This trial demonstrated the ability of "loaded" stem cells to find and kill cancer cells. This is a mechanism by which it is now possible to selectively target cancer cells, which has always the "holy grail" of cancer treatment. The ability to "zero in" on specific cancer cells has always remained elusive, until now.
This new gene therapy is the first of its kind. In a news release dated 12/8/03, the M.D. Anderson researchers announced a "Novel Gene Therapy" delivery system in which stem cells are used to target, and then attack, tumors. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH). This new gene therapy is capable of finding and then killing the metastasized cancer cells, regardless of where they may have spread in the body. The genetically engineered stem cells were then tested in mice with a variety of human cancers, including ovarian, brain, and breast cancer, as well as melanoma and leukemia. Michael Andreeff, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Departments of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, and Leukemia, announced that, "This drug delivery system is attracted to cancer cells no matter what form they are in, or where they are." As the news release described,
"M.D. Anderson has filed patent applications on the system, which uses human mesenchymal progenitor cells (MSC), the body's natural tissue regenerators. These unspecialized cells can migrate to an injury by responding to signals from the area. There they develop the kind of connective tissue that is needed to repair the wound, and can become any kind of tissue required."
Isolated from bone marrow, the MSC are then exposed to a virus which delivers a particular gene into the stem cells. It is this gene which later, when switched on, will produce the anticancer effect. The cells are then returned to the patient through an intravenous injection, and "the millions of engineered MSC will engraft where the tumor environment is signaling them, and will activate the therapeutic gene."
Dr. Andreeff describes cancerous tumors as "never healing wounds", which "use mesenchymal stem cells to build the normal tissue that is needed to support the cancer." He adds, "There is constant remodeling of tissue in tumors," and it is this feature, of the tumor's ability to attract the stem cells, which the researchers are now able to exploit.
The work seems to be particularly promising for cancers which have proven to be resistant to standard methods of treatment. As Dr. Andreeff describes,
"These results suggest that gene-modified MSC can inhibit the growth of leukemias, metastatic tumors of the lungs, and ovarian and brain tumors. We will need to optimize the genes that are delivered, but the most important discovery here is that these cells are capable of migrating from the bone marrow or blood circulation into tumors, and suggests this can be developed into a potent therapy."
Mesanchimal cells are also derivable from placental cells and from the Wharton's jelly of umbilical cords. Researcher Cathy Stewart has developed this process, and patented the isolation and expansion of mesanchimal cells derived in this manner. Licensing arrangements are in progress.
This case describes a particular treatment administered by the director of this clinic in collaboration with a couple of other independent medical groups.
The patient was a woman with breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. Her lungs kept filling up with fluid; she had pleural effusions on the outside of her lungs, which kept collapsing her lungs, and she was in inconstant need of taps. She received a dendritic cell vaccine, a procedure which "pumped" her full of medication that made her bone marrow spit out stem cells that could be converted into dendritic cells. These stem cells were then harvested using a leukopheresis machine, and the precursor to the dendritic cells were removed. Her lungs were tapped for natural killer cells, lymphocyte activated killer cells, and tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. The tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (which are programmed to kill tumor cells) were isolated and expanded, the tumor cells were isolated from the pleural fluid, killed and used to excite the activity of the dendritic cells against them. Some of her stem cells that had been harvested from the bone marrow expansion were then expanded; she was given the dendritic cell vaccine, with expanded tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, and expanded bone marrow stem cells.
The woman experienced a complete remission.
Stem cell therapy has been repeatedly shown to be an effective treatment in the repair of neurological damage caused by stroke. Interestingly, if a stroke patient also suffers from other tissue damage not directly related to the stroke, the stem cell therapy will also target and repair the other injuries, in addition to those caused by the stroke.
One such example was a male stroke patient who also suffered from prostate cancer. After receiving the stem cell treatment for his stroke, his PSA dropped from 7.9 to 2.6 in 3 months.
Other Neurological Disease:
As with neurological damage caused by stroke, stem cell therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of types of neurological damage. Among other examples, over 100 cases of cerebral palsy have already been successfully treated with stem cell therapy.
Additionally, one particular boy who was quadroplegic, blind and mute was able to see and speak after stem cell treatment. Although the "optimal" dose is still not yet known, the most effective stem cell dosage varies with each individual person and situation.
Joint, Muscle, Tendon, Bone & Ligament Injury:
Ask any orthopedic surgeon, "Who would you rather have for a patient: an adult, or a kid?", and the answer will always be "a kid". Kids can break anything, and it will almost repair itself. With age, however, our natural supply of stem cells continues to diminish. Skeletal tissue (bone) is an "organ", and as such it can regenerate itself. The means by which this regeneration occurs is through bone marrow. Bone marrow is where our stem cells are housed. A healing bone looks very similar to the blastema of a salamander, with a "blob" of tissue forming around it. (The reader is referred to the section on "Regeneration").
In 2003, the world's first stem cell transplant was performed on a teenage boy who suffered a massive heart attack after accidentally shooting himself in the heart with a nail gun. The stem cells were harvested from his circulating blood, and then injected into the coronary artery that supplies blood to his heart. The operation was successfully performed on February 21st, at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, with Dr. Steven Timmis heading the surgery. The procedure was based upon research conducted by Dr. Piero Anversa of the New York Medical College in Valhalla, and by Dr. Donald Orlic of NIH.
In a news release dated 3/6/2003, the headline announced, "Own stem cells used to heal boy's heart." Having accidentally shot himself in the heart with a nail gun on February 1st, sixteen year old Dimitri Bonnville of Altmont, Michigan pierced one of the main pumping chambers of his heart with a 3 inch long nail. A few days later, he suffered a massive heart attack, thus necessitating the experimental surgery. He has now become the first person in the U.S. to undergo this procedure of utilizing a patient's own stem cells, harvested from the patient's blood, to heal cardiac damage.
"This treatment was Dimitri's only option, aside from a heart transplant," says William O'Neill, the chief of cardiology at Beaumont Hospital. "This is the first time that stem cells from a patient's own blood have been used to repair heart damage. The goal is to use stem cells to regenerate damaged heart tissue and stimulate the growth of new blood vessels."
The treatment protocol was developed by Beaumont cardiologist Dr. Cindy Grines with the help of Drs. William O'Neill and Bradley Eisenbrey, chief of transfusion medicine at Beaumont. The treatment began on February 17th with Bonnville starting a 4 day regimen of Neupogen, a drug that stimulates stem cell production in the blood. On Feb. 21st, doctors harvested the boy's stem cells with a blood collection machine. "They then inserted a heart catheter and transplanted stem cells into Bonnville's left anterior descending artery, which supplies blood to the front of the heart," a spokesperson described. The procedure lasted 60 minutes. Five days after the transplant, doctors implanted a defibrillator in Bonnville's chest to control irregular heartbeats that are more likely following heart attack damage. "The efficiency of Bonnville's heart increased within a few days," said Grines. "His heart should continue to repair itself for about three months," says O'Neill.
Prior to this procedure, in 2 trials in Germany and one in Honk Kong, researchers had attempted a much more invasive procedure on heart attack patients in which they harvested stem cells from the patients' bone marrow. Last year, Australian surgeons successfully repaired a 74 year old man's heart, also by using bone marrow stem cells.