Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Russian Research into Non-embryonic stem cells in treating spinal injuries
MOSCOW, December 6 (RIA Novosti) - It has been widely believed until recently that nerve cells cannot reproduce themselves, especially those of the spinal cord. But doctors at the Neurology Clinic of Russia's Blokhin Oncology Research Center have now challenged this belief by performing six successful surgical operations on patients with spine injuries. The patients, thought before the surgery to be bedridden for the rest of their lives, are now learning to walk again, the Trud newspaper reports.
It was Andrei Bryukhovetsky, Director General of the Neurology Clinic, who suggested performing the unprecedented operations, involving the transplantation of stem cells to the spinal cord. At first he was not sure where stem cells for nerve tissues should be taken from, but it soon occurred to him that the mucous membrane of the nose, with its many nerve endings, was the best source. Extracted neural stem cells are grown in tissue culture to be then injected into the damaged spine area, restoring the vertebrae one by one.
"No one has done anything like that before us," Bryukhovetsky says. He and his colleagues emphasize that the work is not about experimenting on humans. They have behind them years of experimentation on animals and rigid panel examinations by the Academy of Sciences and the Health Ministry.
On getting a signal about an organ's malfunction from the body's regulating systems, stem cells rush to the damaged area along blood vessels. They can repair almost any damage by transforming themselves into cells of the type needed by the body at this particular point in time and stimulating its inner reserves toward recovery. Their activity is comparable to that of an ambulance.
If implanted into a cardiac patient's body no later than six days after he/she suffered a heart attack, stem cells will fully restore the heart muscle, leaving no scars, says Vladimir Smirnov, Director of the Experimental Cardiology Institute at the Russian Health Ministry.
Stem cells are also effective in treating for diabetes, impaired joints, cancer, and neurological disorders, doctors say. In the future, stem cells could serve as building blocks in growing transplant organs. They are possible to extract from various sources, including the liver, the subcutaneous fat, the skeletal muscles, and the hair follicles.
In the past two years, scientists have been working to create a universal stem cell, one that could be grown in large numbers and transplanted to the human body without the risk of rejection. If such a cell is eventually created, stem cell preparations will be possible to buy at a pharmacy.
Non-Embryonic Stem Cell Testimonial from Russia: Spinal Cord Injuries ReversedThe Russian news agency Novosti reported Monday that Russian scientists have succeeded in treating six individuals bed-ridden with spinal cord damage using non-embryonic stem cells derived from the patient's own nasal tissues. All six are learning to walk again.
Scientists at the Neurology Clinic of Russia's Blokhin Oncology Research Center removed neural stem cells from the lining of the nose, which were then grown in tissue culture. The resulting cells were injected into damaged areas of the spine, re-growing damaged spinal segments one at a time.
"No one has done anything like that before us," Andrei Bryukhovetsky, Director General of the Neurology Clinic said.
Also, when implanted into damaged cardiac muscle after a heart-attack, stem cells can fully restore the muscles of the heart without any scar tissue, according to Vladimir Smirnov, Director of the Experimental Cardiology Institute at the Russian Health Ministry.