Adult stem cells are the future of the battle against multiple sclerosis, according to the Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association (AISM) in the latest edition of ‘Una mela per la vita’ (‘An Apple for Life’) over the past two days, aiming to collect funds for scientific research. The AISM has invested a part of the proceeds from the past years into the possible use of undifferentiated cells, today as a legitimate part of future therapies.
Experimenting on the use of mesechymal stem cells on animal tissue is a research group of the Neurological Clinic of the University of Genoa, led by Antonio Uccelli. According to Uccelli, this therapy can “immunomodulate and provide neuroprotection against autoimmune attacks and favor cell trophism during sickness.” The neurologist warned: “Despite expectations from the sick and the secular community for both regenerative medicine and adult stem cells, they have not shown to be effective against nerve damage.” Professor Uccelli spoke about the future regarding experimentation of cellular therapy on humans: “Perhaps within a year,” he responded.
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Italian Welfare Undersecretary Ferruccio Fazio disapproves of private biobanks and is clearly in favor of the “allogenic” conservation of umbilical cord stem cells, meaning the conservation of stem cells saved for the exclusive use of the donor-patient. Speaking about a government report on “the appropriate use of umbilical cord stem cells”, Fazio outlined the government’s approach on the issue. A few weeks after a ministerial decree dictating new regulations for umbilical cord conservation, Fazio explained autologous donation, meaning conservation of stem cells for yourself, “is not only less useful, but also less efficient as science has demonstrated”.
The only exception allowed by the ministerial decree is “the conservation of umbilical cord blood to be used by families with children who are at risk for diseases that are genetically determined, which are scientifically proven and clinically approved to be treated with umbilical cord stem cells upon presenting clinical documentation released by a specialist”. From a scientific standpoint, underlined Fazio, “the use of hematopoietic stem cells for allogenic transplants creates another advantage because these stem cells eliminate diseased cells that remain after chemotherapy or radiotherapy, thanks the ability of special white blood cells from the donor to recognize them as foreign and destroy the residual diseased cells, performing an actual ‘cellular therapy’. This effect of hematopoietic stem cells transplants is known as ‘Graft versus Leukemia’. Continue reading
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Stem cell therapies – treatments that involve the transplantation of stem cells, organs, or other cells into patients to improve the function of diseased or damaged tissues or organs – is a field that has been steadily advancing. Perhaps more than any other industry, stem cell therapies is poised to make a significant near-term impact on worldwide public health, and many individuals living today may experience stem cell-related therapies.
The most obvious use of stem cells is in cell-replacement therapies, but they are also valuable in disease modeling, drug discovery, and drug toxicity assessment. Stem cell therapies are currently being applied to over 50 diseases including heart, lung, neurodegenerative, and eye disease, cancer, and HIV. Part of the reason for the successful progress in stem cell therapies is the longstanding multi-disciplinary integration of policy, science, industry, and patient advocacy.
Public health and drug development model is broken
Stem cell therapies could arrive just in time to help as new models for health care delivery are sorely needed. Care delivery costs continue to rise, worldwide populations are aging, and physician shortages are expected. The cost to bring a new drug to market has soared to $1.3 billion, and there are fewer drugs seeking approval (in 2011, the U.S. FDA had only 23 new drugs applications as compared with 45 in 1996). Also, new classes of drugs such as cellular and gene therapies will be even more costly and complicated than today’s already expensive small molecule drugs and biologics. Investors have been shrinking from the market, and at the national public health level, there could be a bleak period of care rationing.
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