Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Do stem cells really repair tissue?

For several years there has been a curious and very confusing debate in editorials of publications like the New England Journal of Medicine about whether adult stem cells actually regenerate tissue or not.

The debate centers on technical questions and semantics, rather than the reality of results. Take for example heart repair. We know that bone marrow cells can land up in damaged heart and when present, the heart is repaired. It is hard to be certain what proportion of this remarkable process is due to stimulants released locally by bone marrow cells, or by the bone marrow cells actually differentiating into heart tissue.

It remains a confusing picture, not least because in the lab, cells seem to change character profoundly, but in clinical trials it appears the effects of many stem cells are stimulatory. But who cares? As a clinician I am delighted if injecting your bone marrow cells into your back means that you are walking around 3 months after a terrible injury to your spine instead of being in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. I am not so concerned with exactly how it all works, and nor will you be.


1 comment:

kiitsch said...

have u seen that movie "the eye" ? if this sort of character change happens would you be concerned then ?