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Stem Cell Therapy -- a New Approach

Korea continues to be a source of amazing developments in the field of regenerative medicine:

A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are not completely undifferentiated like embryonic stem cells. They are described as being "multipotent," meaning that they "are capable of forming a limited number of specialised cell types." So these cells may not have quite the potential of embryonic stem cells, but they have apparently already made good on one of the more outrageous promises made on behalf of embryonic stem cells. And we learned not too long ago that expectant mothers have been receiving this kind of stem cell therapy all along. Perhaps most importantly, we can start harvesting and doing work with these cells now, and skip the tiresome debate.

After all, there is an abundant supply of umbilical cord blood, and no embryo or fetus need be harmed in collecting it. One of the sticking points in the current debate is that federal funds may be used for research on only a few lines of embryonic stem cells. But even if these restrictions were removed, there will still be vastly more potential cell lines to be derived from umbilical cord blood than there would ever be from rejected embryos. Every pregnant woman is potentially a source.


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» Another Kind of Stem Cell Makes Good from Spontaneous Solutions
Despite the alarmist rhetoric to the contrary, non-embryonic stem cells appear capable of miracles too. Apparently a Korean woman, paralyzed for decades was healed using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood, a process that does not harm the embry... [Read More]


This is rather an interesting story. If it really is true, the potential market would be huge, the political obstacles zero, the risk modest, and the near-term RoI large compared ot the ESC-investment. But there's surprisingly little interest by industry, universities or media. Perhaps there's something wrong with the science? Or maybe it is the IP? (Can adult stem-cell products be as well protected by IP as patented drugs are protected?) Or perhaps it is something about the culture of science and media that isn't quite understood. I'd love to know.

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