Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Embryonic stem cells can repair eyes

By Cernig

We all know that the Republican presidential candidates have been flipping like landed codlings over abortion - but has anyone yet asked them about embyonic stem cell research?

Especially in light of a new report from a Mass. company:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stem cells made from human embryos can home in on damaged eyes, hearts and arteries of mice and rats, and appear to start repairs, a U.S. company said on Monday.

Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology said it had devised a straightforward way to make blood vessel precursor cells out of the stem cells and plans to test them in humans.

"We figured out how to produce literally billions of so-called 'hemangioblasts' -- the mythical cell in the embryo that gives rise to our entire blood and immune system as well as to the blood vessels in our body," Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of research and scientific development at ACT, said in an e-mail.

"We've also tested these cells in animals for the first time, and it turns out that they have incredible reparative potential."

..."When injected into the bloodstream, they homed to the other side of the body and repaired damaged vasculature within 24 to 48 hours," Lanza said.

"For example, we injected the cells into mice with damaged retinas due to diabetes or other eye injury. The cells (labeled green) migrated to the injured eye, and incorporated and lit-up the entire damaged vasculature. The cells are really smart, and amazingly, knew not to do anything in uninjured eyes."

The researchers killed the mice to check the cells' progress, so they do not know the long-term effects.

"The cells also showed remarkable reparative capacity in animals with heart attacks and ischemic (blocked by a blood clot) limbs. The cells reduce the mortality rate by 50 percent after a massive heart attack," Lanza said.

"If the same thing works in humans (these would be the same human cells we would probably use), you might be able to prevent patients from having legs and other limbs amputated by simply injecting some cells."

..."We also have studies underway indicating that the cells can also considerably accelerate wound healing, repair lung damage, and can even generate unlimited amounts of red blood cells for transfusion," Lanza said.

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