By Kathy Ostrowski
An exciting proposal establishing an adult stem cell center at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), was presented to a joint meeting of the Kansas Senate and House Health committees on Thursday and Friday.
Lawmakers heard from medical experts using adult stem cell (ASC) treatments, as well as patients and other experts in the field about the urgent need to establish a new center at KUMC that would conduct clinical research trials and co-ordinate education about this rapidly growing medical specialty.
Dr. David Prentice, Adjunct Professor of Molecular Genetics and an international expert on the stem cell topic, has testified several times to Kansas lawmakers on this developing field. He urged the creation of a hub for ASC treatments, information and medical networking. Prentice quoted recent science and medical journals that:
- 1 in 200 Americans will undergo an ASC transplant in their lifetime;
- over 60,000 ASC transplants occur globally each year;
- there are over 2,600 ongoing, or completed, FDA-approved ASC trials.
Dr. Dana Winegarner, a Kansas City neurologist, although not on staff at KUMC, testified that no professional turf battles stand in the way. The problem is that busy practitioners cannot keep up with the rapidity of the stem cell developments; he said he has an app on his smart phone that notifies of breaking relevant medical data and that it registers over 60 hits a day. “During the time I leave for work and return at night, medicine has changed!”
Dr. Buddhadeb Dawn, Director of KUMC’s Cardiovascular Diseases Division and Research Institute, demonstrated how applications of stem cells regenerate damaged hearts and reviewed outcomes of national studies. Dawn said the list of diseases that can be cured with stem cells is ever-increasing and thus there is a crying need for a center that can process and manufacture clinical grade stem cells as well as initiate clinical trials.
Patient Richard Waters, a participant in an adult stem cell program trial at KUMC, testified that the stem cell heart treatment he received last year was not available in the United States when he had his earlier heart attacks. Testimony from Waters and videos of two other patients who’d undergone successful, remarkable medical treatment from non-embryonic stem cells fascinated the attendees in the packed room at the state Capitol.
Dr. Omar Aljitawi, part of KUMC’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, said that KUMC is involved in 2 major umbilical cord blood transplant trials, a treatment first done successfully in 1988. Kansas is home to the development of the “Wharton’s Jelly” part of the umbilical cord, which offers much promise as a base material for multiplying cells for patient application. Aljitawi bemoaned the fact that so many sources of ASC were being discarded and need to be developed and made available for a waiting populace.
Senate Health committee chair, Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) said a bill is being drafted to create a cutting edge ASC center at the KUMC campus in Kansas City, for which no model exists nationally–or globally.