More MS news articles for July 2001

Human stem cells found to cure paralysis in mice

30th July 2001
David Montgomery

SCIENTISTS yesterday claimed to have used stem cells from a human embryo to partially cure paralysed laboratory mice. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, said they had successfully treated 120 mice and rats who had been infected with a virus which left them paralysed, using stem cells harvested from human embryos.

The team said they expected similar experiments to be carried out on humans within three years. Yesterday’s development is believed to be the first successful use of embryonic human stem cells to partially cure a disease.

It came as President George W Bush decides whether to allow government funding for the research. The mice and rats had been infected with a virus which damaged nerve cells in their spines and left them paralysed, similar to a motor neurone disease suffered by humans known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

They then had their spinal fluid infused with a solution containing stem cells harvested from aborted foetuses.

The scientific team, led by neurologist Dr Douglas Kerr, found the nerve cells affected by the disease were regenerated and the rats and mice regained some control over their rear legs. He said: "The majority of the animals recover some function. They are not normal but they can begin to move their hind limbs under them and some can bear weight."

He said the team was eager to test human stem cells on people suffering from ALD in the hope of developing a cure for the degenerative disease.

The Pope has branded stem cell research "practices that devalue and violate human life".