Adult vs. Embryonic: Dichotomy or Working Partners?

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“For all the promise of embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells have had many more medical applications to date. Only one embryonic stem cell therapy, for spinal cord injury, has yet been cleared to begin human trials, and even that has not yet made it into any patients. That compares with more than 200 adult stem cell therapies already in trials, and a few spectacular successes such as Claudia Castillo, the Spanish woman who last year received a new bronchus grown from her own stem cells.” -London Times this morning

Adult vs. embryonic?  Is really a contest?  Adult stem cells are much closer to clinical reality, but as today’s London times points out, in the long run both therapies will likely exist side by side. What are the advantages of adult stem cells used in the same patient where they are harvested (autologous)?  They are:

-Much less likelihood of adverse events including less rejection.  Autologous adult cells are yours, not from someone else.

-No evidence of tumor formation in adult stem cells handled appropriately in culture.  Embryonic and fetal cells already have at least one case report showing tumor formation.

-Much more evidence of real world clinical applications, meaning adult stem cells are ready to go, while embryonic cells are far behind in studies showing that they work in real world diseases.

The upshot?  Both therapies will likely be used in the future, but for the next 5-10 years, it’s an adult stem cell world.

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Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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