Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Stem cell therapies: Not just transplants

Paul Knoepfler, a CIRM grantee at UC Davis, has a recent blog entry in his Stem Cell Myths series. The myth he debunks this time: Stem cell therapies are all transplants. As he so rightly points out, embryonic, iPS or tissue-specific stem cells can also be studied in the lab as a way of developing drugs that activate our own body's stem cell to heal the diseased organ or tissue. He writes:
In this way of thinking, specific drugs are given to a patient to put their own stem cells to work against the disease. Such drugs may stimulate the endogenous stem cells to expand and increase greatly in numbers as well. This kind of stem cell therapy is inherently far safer than anything done with a transplant.
 Knoepfler's previously debunked myth was that embryonic stem cells are no longer needed.



  1. I'm not entirely convinced that drugs to induce endogenous stem cell activity are always inherently safer than transplant-based cell therapy. Any chemical drug has the potential for off-target effects that needs to be carefully examined.

  2. Drugs can be stopped and leave the body entirely in hours or days.

    In contrast, some of the stem cells injected into a patient likely stay with the patient for the rest of the person's life. The cells can divide and produce new cells, potentially causing tumors. They may also harbor virsues.

    These are big differences in safety.