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British scientists report in The New Scientist that they have repaired patients' damaged livers by using bone marrow stem cells painlessly collected from their own blood. Patients were first injected with a drug that stimulates their bone marrow to produce extra stem cells, which are then injected into a vein or artery leading directly to the liver.
The scientists said the adult stem cells from the marrow appeared to home in on damaged portions of the liver and affect repairs. This could lead to regenerating diseased livers, avoiding both rejection problems from donors -- not to mention that there aren't nearly enough such donors and many people die each year awaiting this critical organ.
Both liver function and overall health of three out of five treated patients improved significantly within two months of treatment, according to the researchers. The two patients whose health did not improve were no worse off for having received ASCs. The researchers are now planning a follow-up trial on 18 more people with liver disease, using an improved technique.
Actually, the rebuilding of human liver tissue was first observed over five years ago in autopsies of persons who had received bone marrow transplants for other reasons. Notwithstanding this, Science Magazine, a notorious advocate of embryonic stem cell research, later published a paper by Irving Weissman, himself a notorious advocate of ESC research, claiming that in a rodent study an infusion of marrow stem cells "did not contribute appreciably to [such tissues] as brain, kidney, gut, liver, and muscle." He smugly presented this single animal study as the end of the line for tissue building from marrow stem cells and the media bought it. Similarly, virtually no American publication (and only a few British ones) covered the revelation in The New Scientist. Making therapeutic progress with adult stem cells isn't easy, but making progress with the media is almost impossible.