[MOL] Stem cells could help in cancer, spine injury [01205] Medicine On Line


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[MOL] Stem cells could help in cancer, spine injury



Good MOrning My Friends,

Thought you might find the following article useful.

Stem cells could help in cancer, spine injury


Release at 8 a.m. (1200 GMT) Monday

WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - Stem cells -- master cells that are
used to
renew brain cells, blood cells and other cells -- might be used to treat
both
cancer and spinal cord injuries, researchers will report this week.

Two reports presented at a meeting of neurosurgeons suggest that the
cells
can home in on damaged tissue and replace it.

The studies were done in animals and are very preliminary, but add to
the
growing list of potential uses for stem cells, which scientists are just
learning how to harness.

Dr. Karen Aboody and colleagues at Children's Hospital in Boston tested
stem
cells on mice with brain tumours.

``Malignant brain tumours remain virtually untreatable and are
inevitably
lethal, despite surgical excision and radio- and chemotherapy,'' Aboody
said
in a statement.

Her team wanted to see if neural stem cells, which can become any one of
a
number of different nerve cells, could be used to home in on and target
the
tumours.

Other studies have shown that neural stem cells can move through the
brain,
if they are grown in special cultures that programme them correctly.

A few weeks after they were injected into the brains of the mice, the
stem
cells seemed to have migrated to the tumours, Aboody told a meeting of
the
American Association of Neurological Surgeons in San Francisco.

When the neural stem cells were injected into a distant site from the
main
tumour mass, the cells also moved to the tumour, suggesting they were
somehow
attracted to the tumour or the surrounding brain damage it causes.

The researchers said stem cells might be used to carry genes that could
help
stop the tumours, or perhaps even kill them. ``These early studies
suggest
that neural stem cells can serve as vehicles for gene delivery in the
adult
brain,'' Aboody said. They might also be used to carry cancer drugs
right to
where they are needed.

``One of the problems in treating malignant brain tumours is that these
lesions are not confined,'' Dr. Joseph Piepmeier, Chair of the American
Association of Neurological Surgeons, said in a statement.

``They infiltrate into the surrounding brain tissue. Consequently, novel
ideas are needed to enable neurosurgeons to deliver therapy that can
reach
these isolated tumour cells.''

A second study presented at the same meeting used embryonic stem cells
--
which are taken from extremely early embryos left over from infertility
treatments -- to try and treat spinal cord injuries.

Embryonic stem cells have the ability to become any kind of cell in the
body
at all, but they require special culturing and handling and scientists
are
just learning how to do this.

Dr. Todd Stewart of Washington University School of Medicine in St.
Louis and
colleagues injured the spinal cords of 40 rats. Nine days later, they
injected stem cells into the spinal cords of half the rats.

Within three weeks, the rats who got the injections were clearly able to
move
their back legs better than the rats who were not treated, Stewart said.

``In a spinal cord injury, the communicating nerve cell impulses are
blocked
or the nerves are severed, preventing brain signals that control arm and
leg
movement from travelling beyond the point of injury to the body, and
vice
versa,'' Stewart said.

``This approach to stem cell therapy represents a potential means for
repairing that communication block and reversing some of the damage from
spinal cord injuries.''

Scientists think that perhaps stem cells respond to chemical signals
sent out
by dying or damaged cells, and can somehow programme themselves to
replace
such cells.

God Bless YOu All,
marty auslander
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