Stem Cell Research

A basic and general introduction to Stem Cell Research

Stem cells are the basic building blocks of life. They have the most amazing abilities and qualities, with the potential to become different types of cell in our bodies. That's why they offer us the greatest potential to treat degenerative conditions that affect us all – diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, arthritis, blindness, stroke and heart disease.

As there are many useful and inspiring websites that explain more about the science of stem cells, advances in worldwide research, the legislative landscape and ethical context, we have not sought to duplicate them here.

Stem cell Research is a large and complex subject. To help with the basics we hope that the following section will help.

Stem Cell Questions and Answers

Stem cells are thought to hold huge potential for treating a wide range of disease and disability.

Scientists around the world are working on techniques to refine stem cell therapy.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are the body’s master cells.

They are unique because unlike other cells they can turn into almost any other type of cell in the body. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as the body's building blocks. Although their exact role in the adult is still not completely clear, it is thought they act like a natural repair system, maintaining the tissue in which they are found.

These cells could revolutionise the way we treat many diseases and could transform the lives of millions of people around the world.

Are there different types of stem cell?

Yes. Stem cells can originate from the adult (adult stem cells) or from the embryo (embryonic stem cells).

The BAMI trial will be conducted using adult stem cells only. Adult stem cells are found in all of us, their role is to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found. The adult tissues reported to contain stem cells include the brain, bone marrow, blood, blood vessels, skeletal muscle, skin and the liver.

What are the potential uses of human stem cells?

Stem cells may be able to repair damaged organs in humans; this concept is currently being tested by various researchers around the world for many diseases.

Initial reports suggest that some restoration of function is possible using stem cells. Some examples of potential treatments include the replacement of brain cells of Parkinson's disease sufferers and the development of insulin-producing cells for diabetics.

Can stem cells be used to treat patients with heart disease?

Some doctors believe that stem cells can be used to restore the heart muscle cells damaged in a heart attack, helping it to function normally again. Stem cells could make drugs and pacemakers a thing of the past.

Adult stem cells have been shown to have the ability to develop into new heart muscle cells and cells that form the wall of blood vessels under controlled conditions in the laboratory. Most people who undergo stem cell treatment for their hearts are part of carefully regulated studies that are designed to answer the questions of safety and effectiveness of stem cell therapy.

Different types of stem cells have been injected into patients with heart failure as well as those that are having a heart attack to see whether the damage caused by these conditions can be reversed.

Stem cells in the BAMI trial

Adult bone marrow stem cells will be taken from the patient, processed in the laboratory and then given back to them.

The use of the patient's own adult stem cells means that the cells will not be rejected by the immune system.

Previous clinical trials using bone marrow derived cells have shown this treatment to be safe.

‘Blood forming’ stem cells from bone marrow have been used in transplants for 30 years.

The aim of the BAMI trial is to find out if adult bone marrow stem cells can restore cardiac function in patients after a heart attack thereby prolonging their life.

 

 

The BAMI project has been partially funded by

European Commission Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

 

PROJECT COORDINATOR

Prof Anthony Mathur

Professor of Cardiology & Lead for
Clinical Cardiology

William Harvey Research Institute
Barts & The London School of
Medicine and Dentistry

John Vane Science Centre
Charterhouse Square
London, EC1M 6BQ
United Kingdom

Email : a.mathur@qmul.ac.uk