The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Monday, November 29, 2004


Paralyzed for two decades, a South Korean woman walks again. Guess how:
A South Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is walking again after scientists say they repaired her damaged spine using stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood.

Hwang Mi-Soon, 37, had been bedridden since damaging her back in an accident two decades ago.

Last week her eyes glistened with tears as she walked again with the help of a walking frame at a press conference where South Korea researchers went public for the first time with the results of their stem-cell therapy.

They said it was the world's first published case in which a patient with spinal cord injuries had been successfully treated with stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Though they cautioned that more research was needed and verification from international experts was required, the South Korean researchers said Hwang's case could signal a leap forward in the treatment of spinal cord injuries.
The researchers also noted that the therapy helped her retrieve some lost portions of her memory. She was quoted as saying "I remember . . . people . . . making fun . . . of John Edwards..." (example)


Anyway, the interesting wrinkle in this story is that the stem cells used came from umbilical cord blood, rather from a human embryo. AFP points out the difference between what these two variants of stem cells can do, but in the process of doing so, engages in a fit of mock "balance" that would certainly please the James Dobsons of the world:
So-called "multipotent" stem cells -- those found in cord blood -- are capable of forming a limited number of specialised cell types, unlike the more versatile "undifferentiated" cells that are derived from embroyos.

However, these stem cells isolated from umbilical cord blood have emerged as an ethical and safe alternative to embryonic stem cells.
Oh, it wasn't enough that the Christian right gets to define "moral values" in the American public discourse, but also ethics?

Then again, if embryonic cells weren't being discussed, perhaps they'd be making a stink about umbilical cells as compared to adult stem cells. "Hey," they'd say, "that's a little baby's lone source of nourishment. You'd take it away from that precious divine creation? Obviously you're not pro-life."


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