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Stem Cells

March 8, 2012 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Patients who are lucky enough to get a transplant for a failed organ usually face a lifetime on anti-rejection drugs, which are expensive, dangerous and not always effective. But in the future, those drugs may not be needed. A new study suggests that patients receiving an organ that's less than a perfect match can be protected against rejection by a second transplant — this time of the organ donor's imperfectly matched stem cells. Though preliminary, the new study is being hailed as a potential game-changer in the field of transplantation, a mystifying development that could offer hope to hundreds of thousands of patients who await or have received donor kidneys and depend on a harsh regimen of daily anti-rejection pills.
February 13, 2012 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Researchers have used cardiac stem cells to regenerate heart muscle in patients who have suffered heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarction. The small preliminary study, which was conducted by the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, involved 25 patients who had suffered heart attacks in the previous one and a half to three months.  Seventeen of the study subjects received infusions of stem cells cultured from a raisin-sized chunk of their own heart tissue, which had been removed via catheter.
February 5, 2012
Like blood and plasma, stem cells are usually obtained through an easy procedure, and the people who donate them quickly generate more. But in other ways, they're markedly different. There might be only one or two potential donors who are a good match for a patient in need of stem cells. That means donors who are less than entirely altruistic are in a good position to demand thousands of dollars for their stem cells, which would make the life-saving transplant, sometimes used in the treatment of certain cancers and autoimmune diseases, available mainly to the rich.
January 23, 2012 | By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Two patients with vision problems who received injections of retinal cells made from human embryonic stem cells have seen marked improvement in their vision four months later, according to a preliminary study on the safety and efficacy of the pioneering treatment. The report , published online Monday in the journal Lancet, is the first to describe results of an actual treatment derived from human embryonic stem cells. The patients -- one with dry age-related macular degeneration and the other with a pediatric version of the disease called Stargardt's macular dystrophy -- were treated at UCLA over the summer.
January 21, 2012 | By Michael Hiltzik
  What are the chances that the prestigious Institute of Medicine will get an objective and balanced view of California's stem-cell program when it takes public testimony about the program at a hearing Tuesday in San Francisco? About 418 million to one. That's the estimation of the California Stem Cell Report. The report's proprietor, David Jensen, toted up the value of the grants received from the program by Tuesday's witnesses or their employers. Total: $418 million.
December 7, 2011 | Michael Hiltzik
For years, Geron Corp. had claimed to be in the vanguard among California companies engaged in stem cell research. So it was something of a stunner when it announced Nov. 14 that it was abandoning the stem cell field completely. Geron's shares fell 20% the next day, but that was probably nothing compared with how far spirits must have fallen at the California stem cell agency, which just a few months earlier had made its highest-profile investment ever by awarding Menlo Park-based Geron a $25-million loan to help fund the first human trial of stem cell-based spinal cord therapy.
November 21, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
For patients paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, Geron Corp.'s stem cell research was the shining hope. The biotech firm showered scientists with millions of dollars to develop a treatment to reverse spinal damage. The therapy was the first treatment derived from embryonic stem cells to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for testing in humans. But last week, Geron abruptly pulled the plug on its pioneering trial and the rest of its stem cell business, including early work on treatments for heart ailments, diabetes and other diseases.
November 21, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Last week, as the 2012 election season heated up, three researchers reported on American attitudes toward federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Their conclusion: If American politicians listen to majority opinion, federal funding for stem cell funding is more secure than if they heed the party lines, in which case the field may be in for more turmoil. Robert J. Blendon, Minah Kang Kim and John M. Benson, all affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote the perspective article, which was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.  The piece described a polling review project sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
November 15, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
Biotech company Geron Corp. announced Monday that it would cease work on its stem cell programs, citing financial reasons. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based biotech company was a leader in the field and had been conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial of a human embryonic stem cell-based therapy for patients with spinal cord injuries.  Four patients had participated thus far in that effort, which was designed to test the new treatment's safety.  GRNOPC1, as...
November 14, 2011 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
It's long been an article of faith that human heart muscle, once damaged, cannot regenerate.  But findings from two clinical trials, presented Monday at the American Heart Assn.'s Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla., suggest that isn't the case. Two teams of researchers found that stem cells harvested from a patient's own heart were able to reverse damage from a heart attack. Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of the division of cardiology at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., and colleagues presented initial results from an ongoing clinical trial that treated 16 heart attack patients with infusions of cardiac stem cells that had been harvested from their own hearts during bypass surgery.  Their trial was also described in an article published simultaneously by the journal The Lancet .   Dr. Eduardo Marbán, director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, discussed final results from another Phase 1 trial in which doctors harvested cardiac tissue using a minimally invasive technique, cultivated stem cells from the tissue and administered them to 17 study subjects.
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