Large strides have been made in the field of stem cell research – while avoiding the use of embryonic stem cells. One such example occurred in Colorado last Tuesday. A spinal surgeon completed the first disc surgery in the U.S. using adult (somatic) stem cells to repair a man’s lower back.
The operation, which was completed to alleviate the patient’s extreme lower back pain, took place at the Medical Center of Aurora in Aurora, Colorado by Dr. Jeffrey Kleiner.
Dr. Kleiner told the Rocky Mountain News that though this is the first one, it is something they’d like to begin doing more of – if it is proven successful. “Like all scientific processes, we're hopeful for a home run, but we have to take this one step at a time. We're just looking for relatively small gains."
"The stem cells should take on the properties of the cells within the disc and ultimately improve the hydration of the disc - and prevent the progression of degeneration," Kleiner said.
In another story, a young boy, with a fatal genetic skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), was treated by physicians at the University of Minnesota and University of Minnesota Children's Hospital. The doctors used umbilical cord blood and a bone marrow transplant to improve his quality of life, reports the University of Minnesota.
The article goes on to explain, that this procedure was the “first time physicians have approached the treatment of RDEB from a systemic perspective, using marrow-derived stem cells from a healthy donor to correct the underlying genetic defect. With the infusion of stem cells, new cells that produce the missing collagen type VII are generated throughout the body.”
Now, seven months after the surgery, the 25-month boy is showing signs of normal development.
In an effort to create more somatic-cell-success-stories, Colorado governor, Bill Ritter, signed a bill that will create the Adult Stem Cell Cure Fund. According to a press release from the governor’s office, “this fund will consist of gifts, grants and donations and revenue from a voluntary income tax check-off to support umbilical cord blood collection for public blood banks, public awareness campaigns and administration.”
Colorado Representative Dianne Primavera also noted that, "This legislation, to make adult stem cell donations and treatments available, is among the first of its kind in the nation.”