The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has provided guidance on the selection of stem cell protocols for patients and their medical providers. The Society has stated, for one thing, that stem cells for bone marrow aren’t interchangeable with stem cells for the brain. In addition, a single type of stem cell treatment cannot be used for multiple applications.
Blood stem cell transplantation is the most widely used for treating diseases of the blood and the autoimmune system. Bone marrow applications have been successful because the task at hand is to make more blood. In February 2010 the British company ReNeuron announced it had been approved to conduct a Phase I clinical trial of a neural stem cell treatment for stroke. The first embryonic stem cell-based treatment for acute spinal cord injury has been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to move into Phase I clinical trials, according to the ISSCR.
The ISSCR is considering a recent task force recommendation that it review clinics for inclusion on its website. Upon receipt of a request, the ISSCR would ask the named clinic to provide the evidence that the treatment it offers has appropriate oversight and other standard patient protections. The ISSCR will publish online whether or not the clinics have provided that information. Implementation of this recommendation would provide patients and their medical providers with authoritative support for making decisions regarding treatment by specific clinics throughout the world.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has set forth guidelines for human stem cell research. In summary, the guidelines consist of an exhaustive definition of what exactly human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are. The NIH has defined human embroyonic stem cells to be “cells that are derived from the inner cell mass of blastocyst stage human embryos, are capable of dividing without differentiating for a prolonged period in culture, and are known to develop into cells and tissues of the three primary germ layers. Although hESCs are derived from embryos, such stem cells are not themselves human embryos.”
The NIH Stem Cell Unit (SCU) has acquired 21 previously approved and available hESC lines listed from BresaGen, Inc.; ES Cell International; Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; the University of California, San Francisco; the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WiCell Research Institute); and Cellartis AB. Stem cell research and implantation is an evolving field. Patients and their medical providers should consult with the ISSCR and the NIH SCU on specific stem cell applications, their efficacy, and the approved clinics for performing any transplantation being considered.