Stem cell emails to MD Legislators

January 15, 2009

Dear Maryland Legislator:

Re: Stem cell update and budgetary considerations.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) continue to outshine embryonic stem cells in basic research.

Science’s Breakthrough of the Year: Reprogramming Cells

The prestigious journal Science in its annual list of the year’s top ten scientific breakthroughs,has given top honors to research that produced “made-to-order” cell lines by reprogramming cells from ill patients. These cell lines, and the techniques for producing them, offer long-sought tools for understanding—and hopefully someday curing—difficult-to-study diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and type 1 diabetes.

A team from Harvard created reprogrammed cell lines for 10 different conditions, including Down syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy. The university said it was creating a cell bank for academic researchers and would add between 50 and 200 new cell lines a year.

Another Harvard team turned pancreatic cells inside a mouse into the insulin-producing cells destroyed in Type 1 diabetes. The experiment was remarkable because it suggested that scientists may be able to change cells directly from one type to another without ever reprogramming them
back to the embryonic state.

These iPS now provide cells for studying diseases and testing drugs not provided by embryonic stem cells.

Adult stem cells continue to cure/treat thousands more.

Thousands of people have been treated with adult stem cells for over 70 diseases, and the number continues to grow. There are now 2,376 U.S. government sanctioned stem cell clinical trials under way.

Embryonic stem cells have yet to produce any cure or treatment to help people. There are zero (0) clinical trials using embryonic stem cells because embryonic stem cells have severe patient safety problems against which there is no progress.

The problems are:

o Rejection. They are rejected because they are derived from a human being and have their                     own unique genetic makeup which is rejected by other human beings.

o Tumors. They cause tumors and other growths because they are uncontrollable.

o Cancer. They can cause cancer since there is yet no foolproof way to reliably distinguish embryonic stem cells from precancerous cells.

Then there is the problem of the creation of embryos from oocyte and sperm:

o Oocyte (Egg) Availability - It takes a lot of eggs to produce the cells necessary for experimentation. If a cure for the 1.5 million persons in the U.S.    with Parkinson’s ever happened and it took only 10 eggs per treatment, 15 million eggs would be required to treat everyone.
To get that many eggs requires Ovarian Hyperstimulation of many women which risks stroke, brain damage, infertility and even death.

And there is the moral problem of killing another human being (embryo) to get stem cells and the ethical problem of experimenting on a human being without consent.

Budget Considerations
Gov. O’Malley is going to lay off state employees. So should state funds go to rich embryonic stem cell researchers to produce nothing to help people and are researching in a declining arena being overtaken by iPS and already swamped with treatments with adult stem cells? If any money goes to stem cell research this year, it should go to only those areas that will help people directly and help Maryland’s economy.

For example, Scott & White health system, collaborating with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, recently recruited a team of scientists from Tulane who are conducting pioneering research using stem cells gleaned from adults’ bone marrow. The team’s focus is to bring the benefits of stem cell therapy from the laboratory to patients according to Dr. Darwin J. Prockop, the group’s leader.

Clinical trials involving diabetes patients are scheduled to begin in September. Other trials — including ones addressing heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases — are expected to follow. Prockop’s team has 35 researchers. Within a year, the
plan is to have 75 people on board, he said. Already, the venture has lured one biotec company from California for the diabetes trial.

Money wasn’t the reason for the move as Prockop had similar funding at Tulane. It was the framework that Texas A&M and Scott & White offers for moving research from the lab to patients and Scott & White’s patient base is large. And this is what Maryland can and should do - deliver stem cell treatments, get started on clinical trials, research the future of stem cells (iPS) and stop the unprofitable embryonic stem cell research.

Gov. O’Malley has announced an international stem cell conference in September. It should be a patient oriented conference with a theme such as, “Stem Cells - Treating Patients First”, to generate the most interest, especially from your constituents, and the largest lasting economic boost.

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