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Free Radical Therapy Blog » IPS

Posts Tagged ‘IPS’

Stem Cell Therapy, Cancer and FRT: The Good, the Bad and the Promising (Part One)

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

We’ll begin with the good and bad…

Stem cells are those unique little cells strategically located throughout the body, and within the fast growing embryo, that impart the capacity to grow any part of a human body per whatever genetic instructions are applied.

Stem cells were first identified in relation to blood cells. The discovery helped scientists understand how the body could make blood cells so rapidly in response to the various challenges (i.e. infection and blood loss). This led oncologists some 30 years ago to begin implanting stem cells, commonly called HCT, as a therapy to restore bone marrow damaged by chemotherapy. Today, they are used in a variety of ways not just to replace damaged blood cells but to treat cancer.

Not surprisingly, embryonic stem cells have shown the greatest potential for use in stem cell therapy, as adult stem cells tend to become quieter with age. Nevertheless there are rules in place that restrict the use of embryonic stem cells and so science has learned to harvest adult stem cells and rewind them so they resemble embryonic stem cells functionally. These so-called IPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells, the ones most generally used in research, have understandably created much excitement with their potential for treating disease. When properly placed, prodded and programmed, the IPS cells can potentially help make new any part of the human body or its functional components.

On this basis several companies are moving forward with high expectations. The Geron Corporation, for one, is testing a treatment for spinal cord injury, while Advanced Cell Technology is testing a therapy for macular degeneration. Yet it now appears that cancer also has its eye on our stem cells. Cancer has shown the potential to use our implanted stem cells for their own benefit. The risk rises, for instance, for developing a secondary breast cancer in people who have been treated with hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT),* where stem cells are injected into the bloodstream.

Cancer stem cells are hardly new. The first recorded encounter happened back in the 1950’s when a well-intentioned doctor biopsied the cervical cancer of a lady in Baltimore named Henrietta Lacks. These HeLa cells (as they are known today) grew so fast that within a few short months they were turning up in every cancer laboratory in the world.

Henrietta LacksHenrietta Lacks

So researchers are having difficulty trying to discern which stem cells plucked from a human donor won’t cause cancer in the recipient, and how to kill a cancer’s stem cell along with their resulting tumors.

Next up – How FRT leads to a more promising outcome.


* Blood, January 15, 2008.