Friday, November 17, 2006

Adult Stem Cells and Heart Valve Therapy

From Citizen's Link:

Scientists with the University of Zurich have grown human heart valves using stem cells from amniotic fluid, The Associated Press reported.

The promising research has the support of the pro-life community. Unlike embryonic stem-cell research, which always requires the destruction of life to extract the cells, noncontroversial adult stem cells — such as those used in the heart-valve research — do not require the loss of life.

The goal of the research is to aid preborn children with heart defects. Scientists could grow the valves in the lab until the baby is born and able to undergo transplant surgery — bypassing the need to wait an additional six to eight weeks that is necessary to grow the valves before they are ready for surgery.

Dr. Simon Hoerstrup, the lead scientist, presented his research Wednesday at an American Heart Association conference.

"This may open a whole new therapy concept to the treatment of congenital heart defects," he said. "(It's) a promising, low-risk approach enabling the prenatal fabrication of heart valves ready to use at birth."

A heart-valve defect can be detected by about the 20th week of pregnancy. Hoerstrup estimated at least a third of infants with the problem would benefit from such treatment.

More than 1 million babies are born each year with heart problems.

Amniotic stem cells can also be frozen, Hoerstrup added, and could be used to create replacement organs for aging or diseased valves in adults.

I'm not sure what we need embryonic stem cells for since all the breakthroughs so far have come from adult (non-embryonic) stem cells.

Click here for more information about stem cells.

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