06 December 2007

Skin-Cell Stem-Cells Cure Sickle Cell Mice

An American team of scientists have cured mice of their sickle cell anemia using stem cells from skin cells--instead of cloned embryonic stem cells. This takes this no-clone stem cell approach yet one step closer to use on humans with genetic diseases and other conditions amenable to stem cell treatments.
A Japanese team made headlines worldwide a few days ago when it announced a way to turn adult skin cells, taken from a woman's face, into embryonic stem cells, the body's building blocks used during growth and repair, which offer a way to treat patients suffering a vast range of conditions with personalised replacement cells and tissue.

Now "direct reprogramming," which offers an alternative to the use of human eggs and cloning, has been used for the first time to cure a disease, marking the first "proof of principle" that this method has great promise in treating hereditary blood disorders, though the potential to rebuild a diseased or damaged body is much greater even than this.

Mice with the faulty gene responsible for human sickle-cell anaemia were treated successfully, so they made normal red blood cells instead of those of a sickle shape that clog blood vessels, causing severe pain, anaemia and, over time, a wide range of organ damage, even death.
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Much research needs to be done to ensure safety and efficacy of this technique for treating human diseases and/or trauma, but the early steps appear to lead in the right direction.

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