Scientists criticize adult stem cell claim

German stem cell researchers say a colleague's claims about an adult stem cell heart therapy are scientifically flawed and politically motivated

By | September 24, 2007

Stem cell scientists in Germany are accusing a clinical researcher of making unscientific claims about an adult stem cell transplant therapy in gen research as the country's parliament prepares to debate liberalizing the current stem cell law. Bodo-Eckehard Strauer, director of cardiology at the University of Düsseldorf, told the daily Rheinische Post (Sept. 15) that his team had saved the life of a 64-year-old man who suffered from cardiogenic shock by transplanting adult autologous bone marrow-derived stem cells into a damaged artery. Strauer described the treatment as a "global innovation" and called for increased funding for adult stem cell research. Strauer has performed the procedure in over 300 patients since 2001, but the case was the first in an acute patient. But some researchers say his claims go too far. Andreas Zeiher, director of cardiology at the University of Frankfurt and also a bone marrow transplant specialist, noted that patients suffering cardiogenic shock normally have a survival rate of 50 percent, placing into doubt the lifesaving role of Strauer's treatment. "Science is not [done by] reporting a single case," he told The Scientist. "What Strauer has done is to give a patient report, not a scientific study." Jürgen Hescheler, head of the Institute of Neurophysiology at the University of Cologne, agreed it was not scientifically valid for Strauer to base such bold claims on one patient. Strauer's statements triggered a lot of discussion among Germany's stem cell scientists, he said. "Most people are not happy with what Strauer did." Hescheler, an outspoken supporter of embryonic stem cell research, believes more animal research is needed to better understand the effect of stem cell injections before such treatments are tried in humans. "There are many possible risks which might happen," he said," "and this applies for all types of stem cells and derivatives." In a recent mouse study, Hescheler and colleagues identified potential risks of bone marrow transplantation into infracted hearts, showing calcium deposits formed in mice receiving mesenchymal stem cell injections. Strauer, however, defended the scientific validity of his claims, which he said could now be investigated in a clinical trial. "Every study starts with a first patient," he told The Scientist. Strauer said he was certain adult stem cell treatment caused the patient's recovery, adding that it is common practice to report such "new and innovative results" to the general press. The case, which occurred this summer, was also reported in the September issue of the Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift (German Medical Weekly), a peer reviewed publication. Strauer's support of adult stem cell research echoes the stance of German Research Minister Annette Schavan. Schavan, who recently announced a three-year €5-million program for adult stem cell research, opposes embryonic stem cell research. Current law bans production of embryonic stem cells within Germany and allows researchers to import only cell lines produced before January 2002. Many researchers believe the old lines may have genetic defects, said Hescheler, and results from German scientists are often met with skepticism. The possibility of loosening the restrictions will be debated before the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, in the coming weeks, but the details of a new law have not yet been decided. Hescheler said he believes a more permissive law has a slightly better than even chance of winning Bundestag approval. He said Strauer reported the case study in the media in order to sway public opinion away from the need for a new law. "I think so," he said. Zeiher would not say directly whether he believed Strauer's comments in the press where politically motivated, but noted that Strauer supports an anti embryonic stem cell group called "Your Stem Cells Heal" and is quoted on the group's Web site promoting adult stem cell therapy. "This tells you everything," Zeiher said. Zeiher said he was confident that a new, more liberal law will be approved. A Bundestag majority wants Germany to be a leader in science, he said, and access to newer embryonic stem cell lines "is the only way to advance science." Strauer declined to comment directly to the accusations that his newspaper comments were politically motivated. When asked whether he supports a new embryonic stem cell law, he said, "No. We really don't need a change." Ned Stafford mail@the-scientist.com Links within this article: J. Burgermeister, "Stem cell standoff in Germany," The Scientist, September 26, 2003. http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/21626/ S. Reker, "Herzinfarkt-Therapie: Durchbruch an Düsseldorfer Uni-Klinik, " Rheinische Post, September 15, 2007. http://www.rp-online.de/public/article/aktuelles/wissen/gesundheit/480265 I. Oransky, "Trial of the heart," The Scientist, October 1, 2006. http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/24908/ Andreas Zeiher http://www.kardiologie-uni-frankfurt.de/index.php?hb=home&sb=start M Brehm and B.E. Strauer, "Reversal of therapy-resistant cardiogenic shock after intracoronary transplantation of adult autologous bone marrow-derived stem cells," Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, September 2007. http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/17853349' Jürgen Hescheler http://www.uni-koeln.de/med-fak/physiologie/np/index.htm M. Breitbach et al., "Potential risks of bone marrow cell transplantation into infarcted hearts," Blood, August 15, 2007.http://www.the-scientist.com/pubmed/17483296 N. Stafford, "German minister rebukes stem cell research," The Scientist, January 5, 2006. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/22923 Your Stem Cells Heal http://www.deinestammzellenheilen.de/sub_statements.php

Comments

Avatar of: Christine Ball

Christine Ball

Posts: 1

September 28, 2007

It is ironic that in patients with very high underlying risks already, one outcome, which necessarily was not even related to the stem cell infusion, is attracting so much attention, WHILE ON THE OTHER HAND NO ONE DISCUSSES THE FACT THAT EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS CAUSE CANCERS CALLED TERATOMAS !!!\n\nTo see more information and debates on this, go the the Cellmedicine channel on youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/cellmedicine

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