Mesenchymal stem cell transplant greenlighted for clinical test

09/10/2008 01:44 PM

Taipei, Sept. 10 (CNA) Taiwan's first-ever clinical testing ofmesenchymal stem cell transplants will soon begin at China MedicalUniversity Hospital (CMUH) in Taichung, after the project wasgreenlighted by the Cabinet-level Department of Health, hospitalresearchers said Wednesday.

The newly-approved project is one of a number of stem cellclinical experiments being conducted by Bionet Corp. -- aTaiwan-based biotech company -- and sponsored by the Ministry ofEconomic Affairs.

Following the mesenchymal stem cell transplant tests, anotherfive projects will be conducted at several other domestic hospitals.

Wu Kang-hsi -- a CMUH physician who will supervise the testing --said that the project will determine if mesenchymal stem cells canhelp transplanted umbilical blood stem cells better cure diseasesrelated to the malfunctioning of hematopoietic stem cells, such asleukemia and thalassemia.

Mesenchymal stem cells are a type of multipotent stem cell thatcan differentiate into various cells, including pancreatic isletscells and neuronal cells.

Unlike most other human adult stem cells, mesenchymal stem cellscan be obtained in quantities needed for clinical applications. Theycan be maintained for long periods of time without losing theircapacity to form different cell types.

Wu explained that although umbilical blood stem cells have provedeffective in repairing tissue and treating blood-related diseases,their efficiency is sometimes limited because only a small amount ofthe cells can be collected from umbilical blood, and the cells tendto reproduce at slow rates after transplant operations.

"Some past experiments on animals suggested that when assisted byadditional mesenchymal stem cells, the umbilical blood stem cells maybe able to work twice as fast," Wu said. "For this project, we aim todetermine whether the results are the same for humans."

According to Wu, the project at CMUH will last for one year andinclude tests on at least 10 volunteers.

(By Zep Hu)ENDITEM/ls

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