Author archives: David Prentice

Another Life Saved With Artificial Trachea Using Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

January 13, 2012

A 30-year-old Baltimore man is now back home recuperating from surgery in Sweden that implanted an artificial trachea made with his own adult stem cells. Christopher Lyles was diagnosed with inoperable tracheal cancer. He found Italian Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, who is a Visiting Professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who has constructed and transplanted replacement tracheas, using the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells to build the new tissue. Lyles traveled to Sweden in November to have the surgery; he returned home this week with his new implanted trachea. In a telephone interview, Lyles said he was “feeling good”, and “just thankful for a second chance at life. He was looking forward to watching his 4-year-old daughter grow up.

He went home in very good shape, said Dr. Macchiarini. Macchiarini said that Mr. Lyles adult stem cells were placed onto the synthetic windpipe scaffold and grown in a bioreactor for two days, then transplanted into his body after removal of his tumorous trachea. The cells continue to grow and differentiate after implantation into the patient. Macchiarini pointed out:

Were using the human body as a bioreactor to promote regeneration.

Because his own adult stem cells were used, there was no need for drugs to prevent his body from rejecting the transplanted windpipe; use of anti-rejection drugs, which have numerous side-effects, is a common problem in transplants using donated organs.

This is the second synthetic trachea transplant. The first transplant occurred in June 2011, and the results of that first synthetic trachea transplant were published in The Lancet. Macchiarini had done eight previous artificial trachea transplants, using cadaveric trachea stripped of cells and then coated with the patient’s own adult stem cells. The synthetic tracheal scaffold was designed and built by a Columbus, Ohio company and the bioreactor used to initiate growth of the adult stem cells on the scaffold for two days was built by a Massachusetts company.

More Human Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Approved

by David Prentice

January 13, 2012

NIH Director Francis Collins has approved four more human embryonic stem cell lines as eligible for federal taxpayer funding. The latest approval brings the total to 146. The four new lines are all from UCLA. The new lines, designated by the deriving lab as “UCLA 7”, “UCLA 8”, “UCLA 9”, and “UCLA 10”, join six previous UCLA lines approved by NIH for taxpayer funding—UCLA 1-3 approved April 27, 2010 and UCLA 4-6 approved February 3, 2011. All of the lines were apparently derived from human embryos after the new NIH guidelines went into effect in July 2009. NIH doesn’t provide details on the cells themselves or their derivation.

In the meantime, Adult Stem Cells continue to provide the gold standard for patient treatment, and the only stem cell type with published positive results at improving health and saving lives.

Adult Stem Cells from Young Mice Help Old Mice Live Longer and Healthier

by David Prentice

January 3, 2012

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have shown that adult stem cells from muscle of young mice can improve the health and extend the life of aged mice. The research team tested aged mice that are a model of an aging disease called progeria; the condition leads to advanced early aging. The idea was that in aged mice, the adult stem cells may have lost their vitality, with problems in proliferation (growth) as well as differentiation into other tissue types. However, when cultured in the same lab dish as muscle adult stem cells from young mice, the stem cells from aged mice recovered their ability to grow and differentiate. When young adult stem cells were injected into the abdomens of aging mice with progeria, the mice lived two to three times longer than expected and were healthier than aging control mice. Instead of losing muscle mass and moving slowly, the animals grew as large as normal mice. The Pitt researchers found evidence that the young adult stem cells secret a growth factor that delays the aging process.

Senior investigator Dr. Johnny Huard suggested that human muscle-derived stem cells could be stored at an early age and used when people age, allowing some rejuvenation of tissues and slowing the aging process.

The study was published online in Nature Communications.

More Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Approved by NIH Director Collins for Christmas

by David Prentice

December 22, 2011

Just in time for Christmas, NIH Director Francis Collins has approved more human embryonic stem cell lines for taxpayer funding, bringing the total number of hESC lines at the federal trough to 142. Today’s approval is not all that surprising—the four new lines, from the University of Queensland, were recommended for approval by the Stem Cell Working Group at the December 9, 2011 meeting of the Director’s Advisory Committee. The Stem Cell Working group had also voted not to approve six lines from China.

The four new hESC linies that have been approved are not for clinical use, however. Subsequent to the meeting and before the latest approvals, NIH also approved two other hESC lines, from Mt. Sinai Hospital in Canada. Those two lines are also restricted:

NIH-funded research with this line may only be conducted at Mount Sinai Hospital and other Canadian laboratories affiliated with the Canadian Stem Cell Network for further research or potential clinical use.”

In the meantime, the current and future patient benefits of adult stem cells continue to be ignored.

NIH Approves Another Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line for Taxpayer Funding

by David Prentice

October 11, 2011

NIH Director Francis Collins has approved another human embryonic stem cell line for federal taxpayer funding. The line, HUES PGD 14, was added to the NIH registry today, bringing the total number of approved hESC lines to 136. The line was created by Harvard University from a female embryo, and according to the information provided on the NIH website: “The embryo from which this hESC line was derived was determined through preimplantation genetic diagnosis to be affected with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.” This highlights the point made by Dr. James Sherley and Dr. Theresa Deisher in the ongoing Sherley et al. v. Sebelius et al. case, that there is a continued demand for more embryo destruction and more hESC lines, and the current NIH guidelines continue to provide an incentive for more human embryo destruction.

Meanwhile, adult stem cells remain the gold standard for patient treatments. You can see some examples at Stem Cell Research Facts.

2011 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

by David Prentice

October 5, 2011

Awarded to Daniel Shechtman for his discovery of quasicrystals. Quasicrystals are regular patterns of packed molecules, but patterns that never repeat themselves. The structure of molecules that Shechtman discovered in quasicrystals was considered impossible at the time of his discovery, 1982. Shechtman had to fight a fierce battle against established science to get his information published and accepted in the scientific community.

Daniel Shechtman’s discovery of the quasicrystal pattern was wrong according to accepted textbook science. But Shechtman concluded that the scientific community must be mistaken in its assumptions. When he told scientists about his discovery, he was faced with complete opposition, and some colleagues even resorted to ridicule. But he persevered, and the scientific community was eventually forced to reconsider their conception of the nature of solid matter.

The Nobel committee publishes more information for the public as well as detailed scientific information. The information for the public concludes with this:

An important lesson for science

Daniel Shechtmans story is by no means unique. Over and over again in the history of science, researchers have been forced to do battle with established truths, which in hindsight have proven to be no more than mere assumptions. One of the fiercest critics of Daniel Shechtman and his quasicrystals was Linus Pauling, himself a Nobel Laureate on two occasions. This clearly shows that even our greatest scientists are not immune to getting stuck in convention. Keeping an open mind and daring to question established knowledge may in fact be a scientists most important character traits.

2011 Nobel Prize for Physics

by David Prentice

October 4, 2011

Awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae. The two teams of astrophysicists studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, mapping the most distant ones, and reaching the conclusion based on their studies that the Universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. According to the Nobel committee, their findings “have helped to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science.”

2011 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine

by David Prentice

October 3, 2011

Awarded to Bruce A. Beutler, Jules A. Hoffmann, and Ralph M. Steinman for their discoveries related to how the immune system is activated to defend against invaders.

Beutler and Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize bacteria and other microorganisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body’s immune response. Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body, as well as the stage where the immune system develops a “memory” against subsequent infections. Taken together, their insights have shown some of the key activating principles for the stages of immune response, and also mechanisms for disease treatment and prevention.


The Nobel prize announcement was bittersweet for the family and friends of Ralph Steinman. Steinman died just days before the Nobel committee’s announcement that he had won. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which he had battled for several years, including using the knowledge gained from his Nobel award-winning research. Steinman was honored at a ceremony at Rockefeller University on Monday. Although the Nobel prize is not typically awarded posthumously, the Nobel committee has announced that Dr. Steinman’s selection will stand since the committee did not learn of his death until after it had reached its decision.