Stem Cell Transplant Hopes Lifted Print E-mail
By Staff and Wire Reports   
Monday, 18 January 2010 14:08
In what leukemia researchers are saying could be the "holy grail" for doctors. It is hoped that "master cells" taken from umbilical cords could be used on any patient without rejection.

On Monday, the BBC reported that a technique which may eventually remove the need for matched bone marrow transplants has been used in humans for the first time.

It is hoped that "master cells" taken from umbilical cords could be used on any patient without rejection. The latest advance in the field is published in the journal Nature Medicine and it is said to offer some promise by greatly multiplying the tiny number of cells from the cord ready for a transplant.

The current system of bone marrow transplantation helps patients who have diseases, such as leukemia, which affect the stem cells in their bone marrow where new blood cells are grown. Their own bone marrow cells are killed off by aggressive treatment and cells from a matched donor are introduced in their place.

However, a matching donor cannot always be found, despite extensive donor registries and, even with a carefully matched donor, there is still a risk that the patient's body will reject the new cells.

Cells extracted from umbilical cords could overcome these problems - they do not have the characteristics which would normally trigger immune rejection, so it is likely that cells from a single baby's cord could be used in any patient, without the need for matching.

However, there is one big disadvantage - there are not enough cells in a single cord to meet the needs of an adult patient.

Scientists have been looking for ways to either combine the cells from more than one baby, or to "expand" the cell numbers in the laboratory.

In addition to possibly treating diseases such as leukemia. Stem cell transplant procedures also show promise for treating neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease, but today's stem cell therapies usually rely on cells that are donated by another person. This raises the possibility of donor cell rejection by the patient's immune system.

Some of these newly reported techniques will take a great deal of laboratory time and research to fully develop, but companies like NeoStem, Inc. (AMEX: NBS) have already been working on the potential application of very small embryonic-like stem cells (using their VSEL™ technology) to make it possible for a person to use a sample of his or her own stem cells to treat various disorders and regenerate tissues, which would reduce or even eliminate the danger of rejection.

NeoStem's VSEL™ technology was the focus of two oral presentations at the prestigious American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting in New Orleans in early December.

Based on recent insider buying and other related news items (such as today's report and other news items noted in recent company press releases), we believe shares of the company are currently undervalued and may begin to move up in the very short term.

BioMedReports has reached out and will explore these topics and others in an interview with NeoStem's Chairman and CEO, Robin L Smith, M.D., MBA. Look for our special report in this space within the next 24 hours.

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