Monday, March 12, 2007

Adult Stem Cell Banks Come to California

California is not only set to become the center of embryonic stem cell research; it may also become a vibrant market for the adult stem cell banking industry.

In January, the New York-based company, NeoStem, opened a walk-in adult stem cell harvesting and banking center at the California Healthspan Institute in Encinitas. The institute was founded by Dr. Ron Rothenberg, who thinks “the process of physical aging can be slowed, stopped or even reversed through scientific interventions.”

However, not everyone, it seems, will bank their cells with NeoStem just to counteract the effects of aging. One Kevin Mannix told the Los Angeles Times (March 5) that he would bank his own stem cells with NeoStem in the hope that a cure using them may be found for heart disease, to which he thinks he is genetically prone. He will pay NeoStem $6,000 to harvest his stem cells and $400 a year to store them. Proponents of adult stem cell research hope it will be the source of cures for cancers, autoimmune conditions, and degenerative diseases.

NeoStem is not the only stem cell bank. About 24 companies (such as Cord Blood Registry in San Bruno) store blood from a baby’s umbilical cord or stem cells from circulating blood or the pulp of baby teeth. Cytori Therapeutics in San Diego is working on plans to store stem cells for use in plastic surgery from fat removed through liposuction.

Even proponents of the potential of adult stem cells admit that stem-cell banking may represent a craze that is premature. Stanford University’s Dr. Irving Weissman, a pioneer in adult stem cell research, said there is yet no evidence that, say, adult blood stem cells (which he first isolated back in the ‘80s) can generate any other tissue than red and white blood cells and platelets. It has not been shown that fat cells can generate anything else than fat and scar tissues.

Even Cytori Therapeutics’ president, Dr. Mark Hedrick, said, “as a practical matter, either doctors or patients will need better proof of therapeutic use before a big market will develop."

Of course, no proof exists that embryonic stem cells are any more versatile in being able to produce different kinds of cells than are adult stem cells. Adult stem cells, too, have, this advantage --- according to the American Life Leage, over 70 therapies currently use adult stem cells while no cures can be attributed to the use of embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cell therapies have helped in ameliorating the effects of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and leukemia (through bone marrow transplants.) CA Catholic Daily

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