High Official in the Bush Administration Taps California Research Institute for Input on Umbilical Cord Stem Cells

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William Chatfield, President Bush's nominee for director of the Selective Service, recently asked California-based Steenblock Research Institute for input concerning the merits of umbilical cord stem cells as compared to embryonic and adult stem cells. An abridged version of SRI's statement follows below.

Most of the focus on the potential of stem cells in addressing human health challenges has been on embryonic stem cells. Critics and opponents have focused on ethical issues which, though formidable, have eclipsed a more immediate concern: Safety. Many scientists feel that there are profound safety issues connected with the use of embryonic stem cells that will override their use in medicine for many years to come. This is reflected in the testimony given by Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH’s Department of Health & Human Services before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education on Stem Cell Research, March 22, 2002:    

“Human embryonic stem cells tend to be unstable and must be closely monitored to maintain them in their undifferentiated state. Much more basic research needs to be done to validate the long term stability of human embryonic stem cells, both in culture and after transplantation...”

And on May 22, 2003, by Dr. Ronald McKay, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, made the following statement before Congress:

“There is evidence that human embryonic stem cells form teratomas,..”(Teratomas = germ cell tumors)

This is further underscored by many articles and papers in the medical literature concerning the great difficulties researchers have in turning embryonic stem cells into specific cells which then perform normally in animals.    

Adult stem cells are also unproved when it comes to safety. Many scientists feel that adult stem cells harbor genetic changes that have accrued in the donor, and these may result in unforeseen consequences when used therapeutically.

Is there a safe alternative? Yes there is, umbilical cord stem cells (Stem cells removed from cord blood).

Stem-cell rich umbilical cord blood has a 16 year track record of safety and effectiveness for a variety of diseases, including several forms of cancer. With modern technology, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to extract stem cells from cord blood and then greatly expand their numbers. These cells are being successfully used in clinical applications outside the United States.

Some experts argue that umbilical cord stem cells have limited use, because they cannot be coaxed into becoming nerve, heart, bone and other types of cells. But in a study published recently in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, novel stem cells found in human umbilical cord blood could be made to grow in the laboratory, into bone, cartilage, blood, neural, liver and heart tissue. This research lends support to published studies that have shown that umbilical cord stem cells effectively repair stroke and heart damage in laboratory animals. Steenblock Research Institute found clinically significant improvements in children with cerebral palsy treated with pure umbilical cord stem cells in Mexico. These findings have been written up formally and submitted to the peer reviewed journal, Cell Transplantation.

The emphasis on embryonic stem cells represents a narrow vision. Umbilical cord stem cells are a viable alternative, with a track record of safe use and effectiveness, and tremendous merit and promise for various diseases and disorders.

Steenblock Research Institute has developed pre- and post-transplant protocols to enhance umbilical cord stem cell activity in human patients (U.S. Patent pending). These techniques are licensed to various foreign clinics. SRI also collects and analyzes stem cell patient response data.

Excerpts from a Communique on Stem Cell Issues Requested by Mr. William Chatfield, White House Liaison to the Pentagon (Dept. of Defense) For Use in Briefing President George W. Bush

David Steenblock, M.S., D.O., Director

and

Anthony G. Payne, Ph.D.

Steenblock Research Institute, San Clemente, Ca.

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Dr. Anthony G. Payne