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Adult marrow breakthrough at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital

Researchers at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, in a world first, are using adult stem cells derived from bone marrow to replace the types of brain cell that are damaged in multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers.

They have been using adult stem cells cultivated from adult human and mice bone marrow to replace particular brain cells in mice - the kind that form white matter in the brain.

The Catholic Weekly report that Professor Bruce Drew, chief researcher and the director of neurology and neurosciences at St Vincent's, said that the data is "preliminary but convincing" and that it could still take years before it can be applied to humans.

He said it was highly likely that in the future some MS sufferers could have stem cells taken from their bone marrow, which would be cultivated and injected back into them.

The cells would home into the area of damage and differentiate (or transform) into white matter-forming cells and reverse some of the damage.

The treatment could be extended to other diseases that cause white matter brain damage including encephalitis and meningitis, he said.

Prof Drew said: "While we are still some years away from a human application, the fact that we are able to use adult stem cells in this way is extremely important in the development of effective therapies against a variety of brain diseases."

Dr Warwick Neville, research fellow at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has welcomed the breakthrough as good news for those supporting adult stem cell research.

"This research adds to the worldwide bank of knowledge and advances being made now using adult stem cells which always have the advantage over embryo stem cells, which have a high problem with tissue rejection, and also the ethical problem of extraction of embryo stem cells leading to the death of the embryos," he said.

"Also, attempts made with embryo stem cells have led to the development

Catholic Weekly

St Vincent's Health Care Campus, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Catholic Health calls for delay in embryo research bill (24/6/02)
Monique Earsman and Dr Warwick Neville - Report on the ACBC & friends hearing before the Senate Thursday 27/9/02
Stem cell hopes double (Nature)

30 Jan 2003