Saturday, November 05, 2005
Where the promise is: These sorts of stories don't often make the front pages of newspapers because the embryonic stem cell debate is so much more popular with the crusading liberal media, but a San Diego biotech firm got a $30 million investment from Olympus to further their adult stem cell research.
Cytori said yesterday it signed a deal with Japan-based Olympus Corp. to jointly develop a device that would allow doctors to treat heart patients with their own healing adult stem cells.
In the nascent field of stem cell therapy, the joint venture is sizable: Olympus will put $30 million into the venture and pay the San Diego adult stem cell company an $11 million upfront fee.
So far, research into embryonic stem cells, which are taken from human embryos, has grabbed more headlines and fueled the $3 billion stem cell research initiative in California. But the quest for therapies from adult stem cells, derived from bone marrow and other sources, is also forging ahead.
A handful of adult stem cell companies are creating potential therapies, including Baltimore's Osiris Therapeutics. Osiris is enrolling patients in a clinical trial to test adult stem cells derived from bone marrow as a way to repair damaged heart tissue.
If there's a promise of treatment and cures, then the free market system works. Companies invest their money where the chance of success is high. It falls to the government to fund research that isn't nearly as promising or successful.
Cytori and UCLA scientists have studied heart function in pigs that were injected with fat-derived stem cells. Several months after induced heart attacks, the pigs had significantly better heart function than pigs given a placebo.
Calhoun said the stem cells appear to provide several heart benefits. Not only can they create new heart muscle, but they can induce the formation of new blood vessels and make growth factors that can keep heart cells from dying.
Cytori plans to launch a small clinical trial in Europe next year to test the stem cell treatment in heart patients.
The possibility of successful treatments isn't decades off -- it's months off.