Using stem cells to treat cancer

There are many scam artists around nowadays proclaiming the benefits of their particular unproven stem cell therapy, for anything from curing cancer to making paralysed people walk again. It’s not surprising really; stem cells are a pool of cells in every organ that are almost eternally youthful and can regenerate themselves and all other cells in the organ. They sound almost magical. However, last year the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) had to move to crack down on these clinics, citing the of lack of evidence that any of them work and a number of serious complications reported following treatment. Complications including patients in Florida dying, a woman developing bone fragments in eyelids following a stem cell facelift, and another developing nasal tissue in her spine after a doctor promised to cure her paralysis with stem cells.

It is a field ripe for abuse partly because it is one with so much potential. Stem cells do have fascinating possible applications, and there is a lot of research going in to them at the moment. Unfortunately, most exposure people have with them is in science fiction or alternative medicine. Which is why it was very interesting to see a study published last week that underlined how much real potential this field of research has. The study used mice instead of humans, so is still at an early stage, but is very promising nonetheless. Continue reading

Gene therapy for cystic fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a terrible disease, which often results in fatal lung failure by the age of 30. It is the most common genetic life-shortening disease in the Caucasian population, and it is caused by mutations in one single gene. The first gene therapies were tested in clinical trials in the early nineties. It felt like the cure was round the corner. However, more than 20 years later, we are still trying to find the best way of restoring the function of the damaged gene. Last month, the scientific journal Lancet respiratory Medicine published a study where a new gene therapy was tested on cystic fibrosis patients. This therapy was reported by several news outlets as a potential cure for cystic fibrosis by 2020. However, the truth is that the therapy failed to detect a relevant clinical benefit for the patients.

Why the lack of progress?

Read more about where we stand with gene therapy for cystic fibrosis in the blog post I wrote as a guest author for internationalinnovation.com !