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Thread: New Jersey Stem Cell Symposium

  1. #1

    New Jersey Stem Cell Symposium

    Held on October 29, it was an amazing meeting.
    http://www.state.nj.us/stemcellsymposium/

    Let me just give some highlights. There were two panel discussions and two keynote speakers. The first panel was concerning Stem Cells in Cancer Treatment and Cord Blood Cells. There were very interesting talks about how there may be stem cells in tumors, a researcher from Corriell Institute reporting growing of all types of cells from umbilical cord blood cells, and a really impressive talk by a Dr. Shi concerning the mechanisms by which bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells are anti-immune.

    John Gearhart gave one of the most impressive lectures that I have heard on stem cells. It was, as one participant said, a great combination of public service, science, and passion. While he covered the subject of stem cells in a masterly way, starting the definition of stem cells and where they come from, he ended his lecture by saying how much work we still have to do and why we must organize to make all this come true. As a scientist, I really appreciated the ideas that he presented, including how stem cells may be the only cells that can repliate themselves, besides cancer cells.

    The second panel discussion had to do with stem cells and treatment of neural disorders including spinal cord injury. I chaired that panel. The first speaker was Patrizia Cassacia-Bonnefil who spoke about stem cell treatment of multiple sclerosis. Then Ron Hart gave a great talk about microRNA control of differentiation and genomic analyses of human embryonic stem cells, how such analyses can be used to do safety tests of cells. Treena Arinza spoke about biomaterials and scaffolding. Marty Grumet spoke about use of neural stem cells for the treatment of spinal cord injury.

    Bob Hariri gave a talk about Celgene and the work that they are doing isolating placental stem cells. Of particular interest is the statement that he made concerning how Celgene (a $26 billion per year company) has invested over $100 million into the scaling up process for making enough cells to treat millions of people. Clinical trials are being planned for 2008. He also pointed out that placenta stem cells turn off t-cells and appear to be anti-immune and may be useful for the treatment of auto-immune disease. That is really interesting becasue both diabetes and multiple sclerosis are auto-immune diseases that can benefit from both stem cell and anti-immune therapies.

    There were over 50 posters of stem cell research being presented. Even before the referendum starts, there is now a vibrant and active stem cell research community that is working together and sharing. I think that many people, including John Gearhart, were surprised by the volume and quality of the research that is going on. But, it also indicates how much we still have to do to get the research to a higher plane and to start clinical trials.

    One reporter kept asking me what we would do if we did not get the referendum funded in New Jersey. I told him that while this may slow us down, it will not stop us. I also said that it is not enough to win by 5 points. We must win by 25 points to deliver the message that the people of New Jersey cares. It would be so sad if the referendum lost because New Jerseyans do not care. As I have pointed out, the average annual cost for the interest payments on the bond is $1.42 per resident of New Jersey.

    Wise.

  2. #2
    Thanks for the summary Wise.

  3. #3
    Hi!
    Thank you very much for the report!

    And now a hijack (sort of..)

    With your knowledge and background, I was wondering if you could provide a short(-esque?) explanation in "layman's terms" that would allow those of us who encounter the typical negative reaction to defend stem cell research and the benefits it provides? Even better would be some typical responses to any explanation one might provide as counter to the positive side. IOW, once I were to reply to someone's (usually ignorantly fueled) comment on how stem cell research is "evil and wicked," if they were to counter with "blah blah blah" what might I respond with again? And what might I expect as a logical response to any explanation I may offer?

    Sorry if that is alot to ask...it is. And sorry if this is hi-jacking this thread a bit too much...I would be more than happy to edit my post, and then start a new thread addressing this issue. I despise ignorance out of sheer and complete laziness...most of all my own. But to investigate and become educated to the degree I would like might take more time than I have lef ton this earth- lol!

    thx for any insight!
    nikki
    T6 complete since Oct, 2001
    TiLite ZRa, Spinergy LX 24", Shox Firm tires, 3" volcanic glare rollerblade wheels for casters

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by nikki-k
    Hi!
    Thank you very much for the report!

    And now a hijack (sort of..)

    With your knowledge and background, I was wondering if you could provide a short(-esque?) explanation in "layman's terms" that would allow those of us who encounter the typical negative reaction to defend stem cell research and the benefits it provides? Even better would be some typical responses to any explanation one might provide as counter to the positive side. IOW, once I were to reply to someone's (usually ignorantly fueled) comment on how stem cell research is "evil and wicked," if they were to counter with "blah blah blah" what might I respond with again? And what might I expect as a logical response to any explanation I may offer?

    Sorry if that is alot to ask...it is. And sorry if this is hi-jacking this thread a bit too much...I would be more than happy to edit my post, and then start a new thread addressing this issue. I despise ignorance out of sheer and complete laziness...most of all my own. But to investigate and become educated to the degree I would like might take more time than I have lef ton this earth- lol!

    thx for any insight!
    Let me try to do this briefly and succinctly. Let me start by debunking some of the misleading impressions that opponents of stem cell research try to promulgate.
    • Scientists want to study only embryonic stem cells. Opponents of stem cell research always start by equating all of stem cell research to embryonic stem cell research. A lot of people consequently equate stem cell research to embryonic stem cell research. Some have come to me to ask why I am so interested in killing embryos when there are all these stem cells from adults to study. Their favorite paradigm is to depict scientists as wanting to do embryonic stem cell research when nothing can be further from the truth. Most scientists would much rather do something that is less controversial and nobody wants to spend their lives harvesting cells from human embryos. The reason why scientists must study embryonic stem cells is because they are the basis of development and they possess unique features that no other stem cells have: immortality (they can grow indefinitely in culture) and pluripotency (they can make all 210 or so of the cell types in the body).
    • Embryonic stem cell research is unnecessary because adult stem cells are already curing diseases. This is the favorite way that opponents of stem cell research debunking the importance of embryonic stem cell while salving their conscience concerning stopping of embryonic stem cell research. I am particularly bothered when stem cell research opponents say this in front of audiences of people with spinal cord injury, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). These conditions have definitely not been cured by any stem cell therapy, whether adult or embryonic. How dare they say that adult stem cells have cured them. So, why are the people still sitting in the wheelchair or is it because they have been too lazy to take advantage of the cure?
    • Embryonic stem cell research kills babies. This is simply not true for two reasons. First, most stem cell research are done on stem cells that have already been derived. Over 600 embryonic stem cell lines have now been derived. The Bush Administration allows federal funding of research on only 22 lines, derived before August 2001. All 22 of these lines have been contaminated by mouse feeder cells and are genetically mutated due to prolonged growth in culture. They cannot be used to treat people and it is questionable whether they are any use for even scientific studies of the cells. Second, a small part of embryonic stem cell research focuses on making new liines. In all cases, the stem cells come from blastocysts tha are being thrown away by the parents who don't want them any more. The difference is not between living and dying but between saving lives and being thrown away.
    • Embryonic stem cells will lead to baby factories. If you hear this, please know that this is not true. Embryonic stem cells are removed from the blastocyst, shortly after fertilization and before implantation into the uterus. So, this is the stage of development when the fertilized egg is moving down the Fallopian tube to the uterus. The term "embryonic" is a misnomer since an embryo has a midline and blastocysts not only do not have midlines but have not yet implanted into the uterus. Neither embryos or fetuses are used for embryonic stem cell research.
    • Embryonic stem cell research will lead to more abortions. This is false. Embryonic stem cells have nothing to do with abortions at all. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from blastocysts that are produced by in vitro fertilization clinics or cloned by insertion of a nucleus to an egg and fooling the egg to think that it has been fertilized. Every day, in vitro fertilization clinics throw out thousands of fertilized eggs that they don't think should be implanted into the uterus. Likewise, there are over 400,000 blastocysts that have been stored in freezers by parents who may never use them. When such blastocysts have been abandoned or when parents decide that they don't want the blastocysts any more, they are simply thawed out and allowed to die. These have nothing to do with abortions. The choice is not between the blastocysts being allowed to live or die. The choice is between being thrown into the trash or the cells being used to save lives.
    • Embryonic stem cells are potential babies. This is not true, at least so far. While embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, nobody has been able to grow a baby from embryonic stem cells. I suppose that if people wanted to do it and worked real hard at it, it might be possible. To say that this is a reason for stopping embryonic stem cell research is similar to saying that we should not do something if it can be abused in any way. Sure, it is possible for somebody to abuse a technique but that doesn't mean that the abuse will happen and that something good, such as saving lives, should be stopped.
    • Blastocysts should be adopted. Some people have suggested that all the blastocysts that are being thrown out should be offered up for adoption to parents who want to have babies. Indeed, a number of in vitro fertilization clinic have the option to parents who don't want their blastocyts any more to donate them to other couples. However, there are few parents who want to donate their blastocysts to other parents and even fewer parents who want such blastocysts. In fact, the Catholic Church believes that the implantation of any blastocyst that is not conceived by intercourse would be unnatural and therefore sinful. So, some have suggested that the Catholic Church would be opposed to adopting blastocysts and implanting them.
    • Cloning produces babies. This is not true. While there has been a lot of talk about cloning babies or people, this has simply not happened. Cloning simply means to create cells with the same genes. When scientists talk about cloning cells, they means to isolate and grow cells from one original cell, so that all the cells in the "clone" have the same genes. Unfortunately, science fiction and fanciful flights of imagination by people have focused on cloning. However, it is important to point out that no human has ever been cloned. In fact, New Jersey was the first state to forbid the cloning of a human.
    • Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the only way to clone cells. SCNT is not the only way to clone cells. It was used to clone Dolly the sheep... by taking a nucleus from a breast cell from the mother, putting that nucleus into an egg whose own nucleus has been removed, and then passing some electrical current to fool the egg into thinking that it has been fertilized. But, there are many ways to clone embryonic stem cells. One way is to isolate adult cells from the body of a person, change them genetically so that they would be embryonic stem cells. Another way is to fuse somatic cells with embryonic stem cells and, if some of the resulting fused cells behave like embryonic stem cells and there was a way to inactivate the original nucleus, we would have cloned embryonic stem cells. These are only some of many ways that scientists are trying to produce cloned stem cells without having to use somatic nuclear transfer or eggs.


    Now, let me try to give a succinct summary of the stem cell field. When I was a graduate student, I was taught that I have many kinds of cells in the body, that each kind of cell only produces cells like itself. There were cells in the bone marrow that can produce blood cells. We of course knew that the fertilized egg can produce all the different cells of the body. In the past decade, biology has been turned upside-down by the following paradigm shifts due to the discovery of adult stem cells. A paradigm shift is when findings are so radically different that existing theories must be changed. These paradigm shifts are seldom discussed but they illustrate how importance of stem cell research is and why the research should not be curtailed :
    • Most cells in the body cannot replicate themselves, except for stem and cancer cells. This is a really startling development. For many years, we thought of cells are making more of themselves. However, now it appears that most cells are made by progenitor cells who make cells that are terminally differentiated and do not make more cells. The definition of stem cell is a cell that make different kinds of cells and itself. The ability to replicate itself must be a relatively dangerous occupation for a cell, because it is something cancer cells and stem cells share.
    • Adult stem cells require niches to produce specific kinds of cells. It has become clear that stem cells do not operate alone. They need to fit inside a niche in the tissue, a niche composed of multiple cells that communicate with the stem cell and tell it what to do, what kind of cells to make, including itself. The only cell that apparently does not need to have a niche is the embryonic stem cell. All these cells need are themselves and they will go on to form a teratoma, a tumor that is composed of most of the cell types of the body. What is the definition of a tumor? Well, a tumor is when a cell makes too many or the wrong types of cells for any given tissue.
    • Stem cells are very specialized. Every time you open up a newspaper that has an article about stem cells, you see that the article will describe stem cells are "primitive", "undifferentiated", "powerful", and "master" cells. These descriptions are way off the mark. Stem cells are actually not primitive at all. They are clearly very smart cells because they are able to recognize what tissues they are in and produce just the right kind and right number of cells (or else they are tumors). They are frequently very differentiated. For example, an egg is a very specialized cell but it become a stem cell when fertilized. They are not very "powerful" in that they frequently must work with other cells in order to behave like stem cells. They are more like "slave" cells in that they do what other cells tell them to do.


    I can go on and on but the above should give some food for thought and I would be glad to answer any questions.

    Wise.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Foolish Old's Avatar
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    Do stem cells hold promise in the repair of neural tube defects? What accounts for the foot deformities common in babies with spina bifida?
    Foolish

    "We have met the enemy and he is us."-POGO.

    "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it."~Edgar Allan Poe

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    Keep you’re foot precisely on that gas pedal there now Dr. Young. Together by all our efforts worldwide we gain a lot of speed to smash SCI. Thank you.

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    i agree ...never give up dr.wise ..........cure us please .i must dance and enjoy life again.
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  8. #8
    Thank you VERY much for that!
    I will try to read thru several times and come up with a simple(r) way to defend something that is so promising in so many ways for us.

    Quick question:
    If stem cells are our "replicators," and if tumors are when "stem cells go wrong," would it be logical- and correct- to conclude that if *we* came up with a way to police and control what any specific stem cell is doing, we would be able to effectively rid ourselves of tumors? Would this then lead to a possible "cure" for cancer (among other things)?
    nikki
    T6 complete since Oct, 2001
    TiLite ZRa, Spinergy LX 24", Shox Firm tires, 3" volcanic glare rollerblade wheels for casters

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