By Dave Andrusko
Contained in a “Q&A” that ran today in the Texas Tribune is still more evidence that the truth is gradually seeping out: the wave of the future is not embryonic stem cells but adult stem cells that come from morally acceptable sources.
Reporter Sarah Schroeder interviewed Dr. Charles Cox, a pediatric neurosurgeon at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and the co-director of the Red Duke Memorial Hermann Trauma Institute.
Schroeder tells us, “He and his research team were recently awarded $6.8 million by the Department of Defense to test the safety and efficacy of stem cell therapy in adults with traumatic brain injury.”
As we always do with stem cell-related stories, we asked Dr. David Prentice what this means and what is its significance. He told NRL News Today
The award to Dr. Cox and his team is a big step forward. There is currently little that can be done for people who have such an injury, civilians and soldiers alike. And evidence suggests that this injury can be chronic and progressive, with damage developing well after the initial trauma due to inflammation and further brain cell death.
This clinical trial will attempt to address these problems of traumatic brain injury by using the patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells. The cells will be taken from the patient’s bone marrow after the patient is admitted to the hospital, and the adult stem cells will be re-infused into the patient’s bloodstream soon thereafter.
The hope, based on previous studies, is that the adult stem cells will help stabilize the brain after trauma as well as decrease any inflammation or secondary effects that could lead to brain damage.
Dr. Cox told Schroeder that traumatic brain injury (TBI) “is realistically the primary unsolved problem in trauma.” He explained that initially they misunderstood how adult stem cell therapy might work.
They thought “that certain stem cell-based therapies could repopulate the damaged tissue and kind of bridge the gaps between good cells and injured cells. At the time, that was the thinking. And there were some erroneous conclusions, based on preclinical data that was out there, that drove that.”
In fact, “Our first real significant observation was that, when you infuse these adult stem cells, they really aren’t engrafting in the brain, and they really aren’t transdifferentiating — that’s the idea that they would turn into desired cells based on environmental cues of the tissue they were in — but we were seeing these functional benefits.
“As time went on, more and more experiments and studies and papers, we then made the observation that these cells really are altering the body’s innate immune response to injury. (Emphases added.)
Dr. Cox explained the considerable costs, emotional and fiscal, of TBI. There are “somewhere between 50 and 300 thousand patients a year that have between moderate and severe TBI.”
He then talked about what he called “the other kind of big picture thing to understand”:
Most people die from heart disease and cancer. But all those people are old folks. You take a healthy baby home from the hospital, the most common reason that they are going to die between age 1 and 44 is trauma.
It’s important how we understand and look at it — the significance of the problem is in young, quality adjusted life years that are lost. Not just death. And I think that’s an important distinction.
It’s young people who are dying and are disabled from trauma. That’s why it’s important.