What are stem cells used for? The resounding answer these days seems to be major medical breakthroughs. In this recent breakthrough, Korean scientists report using adult stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood in order to restore sensation and mobility to patients who have suffered injuries to the spinal cord.
The study was published in Cythotherapy, which is a peer-reviewed journal. It focused on a female patient who had been paralyzed for nineteen years following an accident. Astonishing results were produced after the adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood were infused into the patient’s body.
According to researchers, “The patient could move her hips and feel her hip skin on day 15 after transplantation. On day 25 after transplantation, her feet responded to stimulation.”
At first, some people may be skeptical of this research due to the use of cells from umbilical cord blood. Embryonic stem cells are harvested from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process. However, the stem cells used in this research are adult stem cells, which means no human lives were taken to conduct this study.
The researcher’s report stated that motor activity was apparent at the end of the first week following the procedure. Before the end of the second week, the patient was able to sit upright. Within the first fifteen days, the patient was able to elevate both legs as high as one centimeter.
In addition to regaining feeling, but also according to the study’s abstract, within forty-one days following the stem cell treatment, tests also indicated “regeneration of the spinal cord at the injured site.” Scientists came to the conclusion that this type of stem cell transplantation for paraplegic patients “could be a good treatment method”.
In writing for the Lifesite website, bioethics specialist Wesley J. Smith was enthusiastic about this medical breakthrough, but also expressed his concern. The senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington, and special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture of Pleasant Hill, California, said, “We have to be cautious.” He continued, “One patient does not a treatment make.”
Smith also wrote that the authors of the study indicate that the laminectomy the patient received could have been beneficial in some way. He said, “But still, this is a wonderful story that offers tremendous hope for paralyzed patients.” He also added that the patient’s injury was very old, which makes the results of the experiment even more dramatic.
Saying that he has been aware of the study for quite a while, Smith said, “but because I didn’t want to be guilty of the same hyping that is so often engaged in by some therapeutic cloning proponents, I waited until it was published in a peer reviewed journal.”
Therefore, if you were to ask the patient in this study, “what are stem cells used for“, she just may reply “miracles”.