Stem Cells in Spinal Cord Injury
May 11, 2005 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Use of human embryonic stem cells gives (probably real) reason for hope in spinal cord injuries. Professor Hans Keirstead from the The Reeve-Irvine Research Center (yes, that Reeve) at the University of California publishes his findings today in which early treatment with the stem cells produces demonstrably positive results (yes, rats). [stem cell basics] previous threads and particularly this.
posted by peacay (49 comments total)

 
Is this something I would need to have a spinal cord injury to develop more than a very passing interest in?
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:08 AM on May 11, 2005


Curley,

only if you find rats with a severed spinal cord regaining a large portion of the use of their legs boring. Other things you might find boring: flying cars, teleportation, living till 150
posted by slapshot57 at 5:25 AM on May 11, 2005


this whole stem cell debate is so politically charged i am always suspect of anyone saying "look, look it's beneficial!"

if human life begins at conception - as some people believe - then there is nothing you can say about the benefits of stem cell research that makes it justifiable. civilized people do not murder one person to use his body parts to benefit another.

if human life does not begin before birth - as some other people believe - then there is no reason tout the benefits of stem cell research to justify the harvesting of stem cells from embryos. in this context abortion is nothing more than having a mole removed and it is justified for pretty much any purpose a woman chooses. no matter how stupid or vain.

it seems to me that "justifying" the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos based on the benefits it might provide is a complete and total non seqitur that many liberals use to avoid a discussion of the real issue of when human life begins.

for people whose politcal leanings make them sqeamish about the death penalty, there seems to be an astonishing callousness towards what may very well be a helpless, defenseless, human being.
posted by three blind mice at 6:07 AM on May 11, 2005


Slapshot: Living to 150 may not be all it is cracked up to be unless you can guarantee that all the stuff that works now at 38 still works into the triple digits!

Mayor Curley: Although much of what I have read on stem cells and their perceived benefits seems very premature and sometimes anecdotal, I am willing to let the scientists do the science. I know so many people with different types of diseases that stem cell proponents feel they could help, that I think it would be almost criminal to let anything stand in the way of helping them.
posted by the_barbarian at 6:10 AM on May 11, 2005


it seems to me that "justifying" the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos based on the benefits it might provide is a complete and total non seqitur that many liberals use to avoid a discussion of the real issue of when human life begins.

tbm, the only reason stem cell research requires "justifying" in the first place is because of... well... folks like you.

So, your argument is that you feel this isn't about the stem cells, but a completely different issue, and therefore it's the liberals™ who are using non-sequiters to avoid discussing the real issue. Of course.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:17 AM on May 11, 2005


it seems to me that "justifying" the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos based on the benefits it might provide is a complete and total non seqitur that many liberals use to avoid a discussion of the real issue of when human life begins.

Because we all know miscarriages, abortions, and stillbirths would be nonexistent were it not for our relentless demand for stem cells!

If there were people getting pregnant for the sole purpose of having an abortion and donating some stem cells you might have a leg to stand on here. But, just like people don't die in car accidents so a stranger can have their liver or kidneys, the use of stem cells is just finding some good in an already unfortunate situation.
posted by Kellydamnit at 6:19 AM on May 11, 2005


Can I play the "summon Bevets" card now? Please?
posted by madman at 6:29 AM on May 11, 2005


it seems to me that "justifying" the harvesting of stem cells from human embryos based on the benefits it might provide is a complete and total non seqitur that many liberals use to avoid a discussion of the real issue of when human life begins.

I'll concur that it does seem like a "man! hemp is the most useful material on the planet" type argument. Pro-hemp people really just want to legally smoke pot and pro stem-cell people are secretly more worried about the legality of abortion. Otherwise, for all the range of human ailments to worry about curing, many liberals sure seem stuck on the ones that might be cured with stem cell research.

Nobody can accuse me of being anti-abortion. I think that the earth's population growth should be slowed by Any Means Necessary, including cash incentives for Americans considering abortions. But I'm not going to feign super enthusiasm for vague promises because it might have legal implications for something that I DO feel strongly about-- that would make me a liar and no better than my opponents.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:30 AM on May 11, 2005


Nobody can accuse me of being anti-abortion.

Yeah, accusing someone of the reason for their thinking without any basis behind it is wrongheaded and moronic.

pro stem-cell people are secretly more worried about the legality of abortion.

Oh. Okay then.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:46 AM on May 11, 2005


what may very well be a helpless, defenseless, human being

You make it sound as if whether the embryo is human or not is yet to be discovered by science.

I think scientists have a good idea that at this stage the embryo is incapable of thought etc.

The only debate is whether you believe it has a soul or not, and that’s a matter of faith not something that is waiting to be discovered.
posted by lunkfish at 6:50 AM on May 11, 2005


if human life begins at conception - as some people believe - then there is nothing you can say about the benefits of stem cell research that makes it justifiable. civilized people do not murder one person to use his body parts to benefit another.

I believe human life begins at conception, yet I still have no empathy for embryos or, for that matter, any other kind of human tissue that lacks a functioning cerebral cortex. If murdering a billion embryos saves one adult's life, then I'm all for it.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:54 AM on May 11, 2005


Just for the record, there's no 'politics' tag for a reason. This FPP derives purely from this poster's observation of a likely landmark advance in the treatment of spinal injury. I'm not blind to the debate but Bush's stem cell policy allowed this to happen -- and the future of such policy I suggest is a matter for a political rather than (what was expected to be a) scientific thread. Not that I'd try to steer the communication here or anything *cough*.
posted by peacay at 6:58 AM on May 11, 2005


pro stem-cell people are secretly more worried about the legality of abortion.

ummmmmmm........BZZZZZZZT. Wrong, thanks for playing. See, three years ago I went to presentation at the national institutes of Health on the use of protein scaffolds for use in treating spinal cord injuries. Think of a protein scaffold as a like a wire mesh you'd wrap around a tube, only in this case the tube is the spinal cord. Anyways, this big name science guy talked about one experiment they did where the severed the mouse's spinal cord. In the control the severed the spinal cord and then wrapped it with a protein scaffold to let it heal. In the experimental they cut the cord but then wrapped the column in a protein scaffold coated with mouse embryonic stem cells. No special treatment, they just coated the thing with stem cells.

They then showed the video of the mice a few weeks later. The control was dragging its ass around the cage. Its legs were useless. The experimental had 80% of the use of its legs back though. With basically no therapy/treatment besides letting the spinal cord heal with stem cells on it. So that's why I whole heartedly support stem cell research. Not much to do with abortion.

that and the whole hypocrasy in that we can't harvest a few hundred stem cell lines a year for research but we can throw away thousands of fertalized eggs a year because of IVF.
posted by slapshot57 at 7:01 AM on May 11, 2005


if human life begins at conception - as some people believe - then there is nothing you can say about the benefits of stem cell research that makes it justifiable. civilized people do not murder one person to use his body parts to benefit another.

This is false. Even if you belive human life begins at conception, there are tons of unused embryos which are simply discarded by fertility clinics. We don't murder eachother, but we do take lots of body parts from people who died of other causes (or are brain dead).
posted by delmoi at 7:16 AM on May 11, 2005


pro stem-cell people are secretly more worried about the legality of abortion.

Wow, that's the most insane thing I've ever heard. The two issues are totally independent, other then that the anti-choice lobby has successfully convinced idiots that stem-cells come from aborted human fetuses. Most likely, they'll come from embryos grown in test tubes (the kind used to impregnate women during in-vitro fertilization).

It would be entirely possible to have stem cells without abortion.
posted by delmoi at 7:24 AM on May 11, 2005


Curley, are you saying:

growing hemp : smoking pot = stem cells : curing horrible diseases and injuries

wtf?
posted by gwint at 7:26 AM on May 11, 2005


Fucking hell this is sad to see. Three Blind Mice, could you please just go fuck yourself blind? This is supposed to be a discussion about the potential merits of a treatment for one of the most devastating injuries imaginable. It's not another platform for political ranting, although it's probably too late for that. The only reason this is a politically charged issue is because uninformed dipshits made it so.
posted by docpops at 7:45 AM on May 11, 2005


Those who object to the use of stem cells for such treatments are free to forego them. I don't see the problem here.
posted by beth at 7:50 AM on May 11, 2005


Since the biggest hypocrites in public life tend to be fundy's, I doubt they'll have any problem dredging up the necessary scripture when the time arises to simultaneously vilify a stem-cell based treatment while availing themselves of it's benefits.
posted by docpops at 7:57 AM on May 11, 2005


I still want to see these people barricading fertility clinics. Really. I mean, they should, if they really give a shit about all those human lives supposedly being tossed down the drain, daily.
posted by beth at 8:01 AM on May 11, 2005


You can't stop science.

Dobson and his merry band of lunatic jackboots can only hold the line so long. There day is short lived, as science is forever.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 8:24 AM on May 11, 2005


Three Blind Mice, could you please just go fuck yourself blind? This is supposed to be a discussion about the potential merits of a treatment for one of the most devastating injuries imaginable.

nice argument there docpops. here's a nickel. go buy yourself some manners. you don't decide what this discussion is supposed to be about.

i suppose my argument was better explained by mayor curley that this looks like a "hemp is the most useful material on the planet" type argument. well said mayor. that is exactly what i wanted to say. wish i would have thought of it.

just because i happen to disagree with the pro-lifers, i can and do respect their logic and reasoning. at least those assholes make sense.

there is no logic or sense at all behind the shrill voices who say "who cares if an embryo might be a human being - that's not the point - WE COULD SAVE LIVES."

kiss my three asses.

discarded embryos? give me a break. if you believe there is nothing wrong or immoral with using stem cells, then there is nothing wrong or immoral with creating embryos specifically for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. hiding behind the "discarded embryo" tagline is for people who want to have it both ways.

personally, i am probably more radical than any of you. i happen to believe life begins at conception, but until the little bastard comes out, mom has every right to KILL it for whatever goddamn reason she deems fit. it ain't my choice - it's her's.

same with stem cell research. the rights of those living and breathing trump the rights of those not yet born.
posted by three blind mice at 8:26 AM on May 11, 2005


I still want to see these people barricading fertility clinics. Really. I mean, they should, if they really give a shit about all those human lives supposedly being tossed down the drain, daily.


...and then they can lock arms and barricade the cemeteries. - Pace Big Bill.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2005


This new stem cell technology could be used to boost immune systems and heal burn victims.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:32 AM on May 11, 2005


peacay, this is a good post by the way. Thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2005


pro stem-cell people are secretly more worried about the legality of abortion. Otherwise, for all the range of human ailments to worry about curing, many liberals sure seem stuck on the ones that might be cured with stem cell research.


MC,

Respectfully, that statement is just patently, flamingly stupid. Stem cell research appears to be a potentially valuable treatment for many things, but one of the most promising areas is in the realm of neurological disease. ALS, Parkinson's, spinal degeneration, muscular dystrophy - these are common conditions that strike at random in people who are often in oherwise perfect health and destroy the individual with resolute assuredness in hideous ways. Many other diseases that stem cell research may assist already at least have some semblance of reasonable treatment options (diabetes, for instance), but most neurologic illness is a death sentence of months and occasionally years. Neuronal tissue is possibly the least plastic and robust of all cellular material in the body, so really, options for treatment are not surprisingly very few.

To say that stem cell proponents have a vested interest in abortion rights just isn't worth wasting time on. The two have been connected by the religious right, amongst others, but have little to do with each other at the end of the day. This is about science and treatment of disease. The fundy's are the ones who need this issue to further a platform and argument against abortion, not the other way around.
posted by docpops at 9:51 AM on May 11, 2005


I think this can all be traced back to the South Park episode where Christopher Reeve gains super stemcell powers by cracking babies necks and sucking their spinal fluid.
posted by anthill at 10:05 AM on May 11, 2005


if you believe there is nothing wrong or immoral with using stem cells, then there is nothing wrong or immoral with creating embryos specifically for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. hiding behind the "discarded embryo" tagline is for people who want to have it both ways.

You're completely missed the point. There's nothing wrong in my opinion with fertilizing an embryo in the lab to produce stem cells. My problem is the people ranting and raving about a process that would occur approximately a few hundred times a year in labs across the country versus the same fertilization/discard occuring tens of thousands of times a year and nary a peep.
posted by slapshot57 at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2005


MC,

If some people want to believe life begins at conception, let them, and let them not partake in stem cell research benefits. However, I shouldn't have to suffer for someone else's opinion. There isn't a reputable scientist in the world that believes life begins at conception. It's kind of like not letting me get on a boat to Europe because some people think the earth is flat and I'll fall off.

You do realize that stem cells are thrown away by hospitals today right? They're thrown away! Even if one believes this means they are "dying" shouldn't we be able to benefit from what's going to die anyway?

I saw a news program on this the other night. People who were paralyzed and given no chance to ever walk were walking. One day, I pray they will be mobile enough to give Bush a smackdown, which is what God wants, my opinion.
posted by xammerboy at 10:15 AM on May 11, 2005


... At the same time, 57 percent of those surveyed in the Republican-only poll said they favored embryonic stem cell research, with 40 percent opposed. On a follow-up question, 54 percent said it was more of a research issue, while 40 percent said it was more of an abortion issue. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2005


The only reason this is a politically charged issue is because uninformed dipshits made it so.

As is true with the evolution debate, sadly. All the rational ones can do is keep pushing forward and try not to let the aggressively misinformed drag them down.

But on topic - this is very exciting news! Great post, peacay.
posted by blendor at 10:36 AM on May 11, 2005


discarded embryos? give me a break. if you believe there is nothing wrong or immoral with using stem cells, then there is nothing wrong or immoral with creating embryos specifically for the purpose of harvesting stem cells. hiding behind the "discarded embryo" tagline is for people who want to have it both ways. posted by three blind mice at 11:26 AM EST on May 11 [!]

I have no problem with creating embryos for material, but it's not really necessary. There are plenty of sources right now that make that statement moot (for now).

(On preview, what xammerboy said.)
posted by exlotuseater at 10:37 AM on May 11, 2005


So I just wandered down the hallway to a laboratory at my university that is involved with stem cell research and asked the people there how they felt about abortion. They kind of looked at me like, huh? And went back to their experiments.

Yeah, they are in it for the politics.
posted by gaspode at 10:45 AM on May 11, 2005


Can I play the "summon Bevets" card now? Please?

Only if you're also aware that you are obligated to send him all your potential new lives, lest they be spilled in vain.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on May 11, 2005


What I said was indeed stupid. In thinking through it, I rather think that liberal attitudes towards stem cell research are a reaction to conversative attitudes. I don't have time to expand on my opinion, but I don't want anyone to think that I'm standing by what I said earlier.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2005


...that and the whole hypocrasy in that we can't harvest a few hundred stem cell lines a year for research but we can throw away thousands of fertalized eggs a year because of IVF.

You're completely missed the point. There's nothing wrong in my opinion with fertilizing an embryo in the lab to produce stem cells. My problem is the people ranting and raving about a process that would occur approximately a few hundred times a year in labs across the country versus the same fertilization/discard occuring tens of thousands of times a year and nary a peep.


Exactly.

Those who object to the use of stem cells for such treatments are free to forego them. I don't see the problem here.

Beth, I hate to disillusion you, but that argument just doesn't wash with those people who believe a bundle of cells is a human. You know the bumper sticker "If you don't believe in abortion, don't have one"? It's never made a dent in the pro-life hive mind.
posted by Specklet at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2005


Frankly, I can't help but think that the whole embryonic stem-cell "debate" is all about American religio-politics and nothing else. I doubt any health system will seriously consider farming embryos for stem cells, especially given the alternative of using discarded umbilical cords. There are far more babies born every day, and far more mass of cells in discard cords, than would be harvested in a year of discard in-vitro cultured embryos.

This whole debate smacks of the religious right manufacturing an issue to play to the folks at home. It's a complete Willie Horton; gets the troops stirred up, but has little substance. Outrage makes for good voter turnout, but it makes terrible science, especially when it's almost completely divorced from reality.
posted by bonehead at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2005


My problem is the people ranting and raving about a process that would occur approximately a few hundred times a year in labs across the country versus the same fertilization/discard occuring tens of thousands of times a year and nary a peep.

And what about those women who's bodies so irresponsibly discard fertilized embrios during menstruation, probably without even realizing they've done so? How immoral is that?!
posted by normy at 11:40 AM on May 11, 2005


By the bye, for the doubters, pecay's last link is to a previous discussion of a woman regaining moblility from an umbillical stem-cell transplant.
posted by bonehead at 11:43 AM on May 11, 2005


This is excellent news. I feel a little sad for those poor lab rats having their spinal cords severed for the sake of experiement, but then I just tell the tree-hugging hippie in me to shut the hell up.
posted by ddf at 1:07 PM on May 11, 2005


Not to derail the politics fest here, but I was curious about this part:

In the rats with 10-month-old injuries, though, motor skills did not return. Although the oligodendrocyte cells survived in the chronic injury sites, they could not form myelin because the space surrounding neuron cells had been filled with scar tissue. In the presence of a scar, myelin could not grow.

Is it possible to remove scar tissue without damaging the surrounding area? In combination with removal of scar tissue, could this be effective on previously untreated patients? This stuff is so cool.
posted by heatherann at 1:29 PM on May 11, 2005


"here's a nickel. go buy yourself some manners... kiss my three asses..."

I just love it whenever a MeFi thread deteriorates into Jane You Ignorant Slut variants. Please continue the petty bickering. I find it most intriguing. Immoral or not, it's wasteful and therefore unethical to not attempt to use every part of what nature offers us, so long as it ensures the quality of life as opposed to wasting it.

Very good FPP, PeaCay.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:30 PM on May 11, 2005


Thanks for the links, peacay.
posted by homunculus at 2:07 PM on May 11, 2005


This news is a step in the right direction, but so much more work needs to be done. Lots of things cause mice and rats with spinal cord injuries to improve that just don't work on humans. I do believe they'll find something very soon though, whether it's embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, signaling pathways or all of the above.

I have a site about stem cells in my profile, if anyone's interested.
posted by Soliloquy at 2:19 PM on May 11, 2005


This is false. Even if you belive human life begins at conception, there are tons of unused embryos which are simply discarded by fertility clinics.
Word to this. Scientists I know involved in stem-cell research aren't interested, for various reasons, in creating farms of embryos for research. The reality of the matter is that, inside the USA, stem cells for research do not come from creating embryos for the sake of research, but rather mostly come from in vitro fertilization plants where we have tons of frozen embryos just chillin' there.
posted by jmd82 at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2005


just chillin'

:)
posted by mr.marx at 4:53 PM on May 11, 2005


The Great Satan must prevail! Cannibalize yourselves NOW!!! Stem cells are your friends!!!

i found this amusing:

for the last two years, he has shown dramatic video footage of healed rats walking to scientific gatherings

Well amen & slap me with a rat steak! Now we got healed believers goin ta church (the Dark Lord's Church of Science) on their own two feets....It gets me all teared up...
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:49 PM on May 12, 2005


maybe that should be four feets...

but you know, stem cells do it all baby! bipedalize them brutes and give em x-ray spex!
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2005


anthill won
posted by peacay at 12:45 PM on May 15, 2005


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