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As I pointed out in an earlier post, the syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman recently castigated President Bush for “betting on the wrong horse,” e.g., adult stem cells, in the stem cell debate. This was ignorant and ridiculous, as even casual readers of SHS know. Adult stem cell research is producing amazing, if early, results. Here’s another little story in that continuing stream:

OSAKA—A medical team at Osaka University Hospital has succeeded in restoring function to the heart of a patient with severe cardiac disease using muscle cells taken from one of the patient’s thighs, it has been learned.

The male patient in his 50s, who had been waiting for a heart transplant, is now able to walk unaided, and will leave the hospital in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, on Thursday, according to the hospital. It is the first time in the world that a patient waiting for an organ transplant has been successfully treated using their own cells. [Me: I am not sure this is the first.] “The treatment can be a good alternative to heart transplants,” said Yoshiki Sawa, director of the Medical Center for Translational Research at the hospital...

The medical team took the myoblast cells [a form of stem cell] from the patient at the end of March this year, and then spent two months creating 25 myoblast sheets. At the end of May, the team attached the sheets to the patient’s heart, mainly around the organ’s left ventricle, which is key to circulation.

After the treatment, the patient’s heart functions, including pulse rate and quantity of blood pumped, all improved rapidly. On Sept. 5, or 98 days after the treatment, it became possible to remove the pacemaker. According to the hospital, the man’s heart functions have almost fully recovered, and he is able to lead a normal daily life.

One patient does not a cure make, as I always say. But this is remarkable.

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