Cooper on Progress in Stem Cell R&D

Professor Horace Cooper writes of recent scientific progress in a method of stem cell research that avoids much of the controversy associated with that type of research and holds promise for breakthroughs in treatment of major diseases.

Progress in stem-cell R&D: Techniques do not destroy embryos, Washington Times, September 22, 2006. By Horace Cooper.

"The firm has created what it dubs "primecells." They have managed to completely overwhelm the existing ethical and scientific debate involving stem cells by eliminating the controversies involving either the creation or destruction of human life forms. And perhaps most importantly, they are demonstrating that their techniques work. These primecells are the first stem cells capable of transforming into any cell type found in the body.

"Their techniques do not involve the destruction of embryos, nor does it need or rely upon the creation of clones. Instead their breakthrough involves the use of adult-derived stem cells. And they have discovered how to transform these primecells into almost any cell type found in the body. PrimeCell's technique is to use the cells that normally become sperm and egg the most protected, genetically pure and most potent adult stem-cell source in the body to produce their primecells.

"And ingeniously, the cell lines are "autologous" cell lines which come from you and are transplanted back into you for treatment. Imagine no longer worrying about the use of immunosuppressant drugs (which prevent the body from rejecting transplanted organs). Today these drugs must be taken for years or even for a lifetime even though they inhibit the body's natural ability to fight off disease. Since primecells come from you and then are used on you there is a remarkably reduced likelihood of infection following transplantation and there is no risk of rejection.

"But the true breakthrough is that the primecells are pluripotent meaning they can develop into any of the three major tissue types: endoderm (interior gut lining, mesoderm (muscle, bone, blood) and ectoderm (epidermal tissues and nervous system). Thus these cells could be the basis for cellular replacement therapies to potentially treat Alzheimer's, heart disease, Parkinson's, diabetes, various autoimmune deiseases and some forms of cancer, among other diseases."