The study on stem cells have been hampered for eight years due to ethical reasons, but during former president Obama’s term, on March 2009 he signed the executive order to release federal funds for stem cell research. From there on, the research for stem cells took off.
Research on Stem Cells
Even before the Obama administration, the FDA has approved of trial treatments for paralysis using embryonic stem cells. While other researchers found a way around using human embryos by reprogramming adult cells to turn into induced pluripotent stem cells that are non – embryonic and has the ability to change into any cell type.
The first trial to treat paralysis by using embryonic stem cells by biotech company Geron was given the go signal by the FDA last January. The clinical trial based its work on the research of neuroscientist, Hans Keirstead, who urged embryonic stem cells to grow into spinal cord cells that they introduced to paralyzed rats, which made them walk again.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin managed to create embryonic stem cells from skin fibroblasts without the use of foreign DNA or viruses which has unwanted results like cancer. The team instead used circular DNA that can be found outside the primary genome to manipulate the cells instead of viruses.
Teams from China and California have reported to have used only induced pluripotent cells to birth healthy mice.
A patient with a fatal brain disease due to mutation in the genes was treated by combining gene therapy with stem cells and it was a success. The procedure required removing the bone marrow – that still contained stem cells with damaged gene – of the patient and using healthy genes to repair it with the help of a retrovirus. Chemotherapy is then used to remove the bone marrow with the defective gene, and then transplanted back healthy gene stem cells where it stopped the disease.