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November 28, 2004

Stem cells help woman walk again

Topics: Medicine

News.com.au (Australia) reports of another successful use of stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood. From correspondents in Seoul, November 28, 2004:

A SOUTH Korean woman paralysed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.  Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy.

They said it was the world's first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Though they cautioned that more research was needed and verification from international experts was required, the South Korean researchers said Hwang's case could signal a leap forward in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.

The use of stem cells from cord blood could also point to a way to side-step the ethical dispute over the controversial use of embryos in embryonic stem-cell research.

"We have glimpsed at a silver lining over the horizon," said Song Chang-Hoon, a member of the research team and a professor at Chosun University's medical school in the southwestern city of Kwangju.

"We were all surprised at the fast improvements in the patient."

Under TV lights and flashing cameras, Ms Hwang stood up from her wheelchair and shuffled forward and back a few paces with the help of the frame at the press conference.

"This is already a miracle for me," she said. "I never dreamed of getting to my feet again."

Medical research has shown stem cells can develop into replacement cells for damaged organs or body parts. Unlocking that potential could see cures for diseases that are at present incurable, or even see the body generate new organs to replace damaged or failing ones.

So-called "multipotent" stem cells - those found in cord blood - are capable of forming a limited number of specialised cell types, unlike the more versatile "undifferentiated" cells that are derived from embroyos.

However, these stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood have emerged as an ethical and safe alternative to embryonic stem cells.  Read More:

Posted by Hyscience at November 28, 2004 1:23 AM



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