Adult Stem Cells May Treat Many Diseases
Study Suggests Benefits for Patients With Autoimmune Diseases and Heart Disease
Feb. 26, 2008 -- Adult stem cells harvested from either blood or bone marrow
hold promise for the treatment of a wide range of autoimmune diseases and heart disease, a research review
Since the late 1990s, adult stem cell therapy has been used experimentally
to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and
several other diseases of the immune system, as well as heart disease.
Northwestern University researcher Richard Burt, MD, and colleagues
summarize results from roughly 60 of these studies involving about 2,400
patients in a review published in tomorrow's edition of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.
Burt pioneered the research on adult stem cells for the treatment of
autoimmune disease. He tells WebMD that the potential uses for stem cell
therapy are only now beginning to be understood.
"Traditional medicine is about three approaches -- drugs, surgery, and
radiotherapy," he says. "Stem cell therapy represents a fourth arm of
treatment that in some cases will be combined with other treatments and in
other cases will stand alone. We are seeing the tip of the iceberg right
Stem Cell Patients Tell Their Stories
Barry Goudy, 48, and Tom Van Lieshout, 76, are both believers. Both are
Goudy had battled multiple sclerosis for eight years before having a
transplant of stem cells taken from his own blood five years ago this
"I played hockey and racquetball and had always been very athletic, but
I just couldn't do it anymore," he says. "I got to the point where I
couldn't walk up the stairs without dragging my leg."
Goudy spent a month in the hospital, including five days of chemotherapy to
knock out his immune system. But he tells WebMD he has been free of MS symptoms
He says he's now playing hockey and racquetball again, and is "living my
"I've had five good years that I wouldn't have had," the Detroit
automobile sales representative says.
Tom Van Lieshout was facing the amputation of his right leg due to
circulation complications from diabetes when he had a stem cell transplant in
He says he was in such excruciating pain before having the treatment
that he could only walk 50 to 100 yards at a time.
"When I went into the hospital I walked from the parking ramp to the
entrance, which was a couple hundred yards, and I had to stop three times,"
he tells WebMD. "Just a few days after [the transplant] I was able to walk
three blocks to the drugstore and back."
Stem Cell Therapy
Much of the attention and all of the controversy surrounding stem cell
therapy has focused on embryonic stem cells -- cells harvested four to five
days after an embryo is fertilized.