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STEM CELL RESEARCH 'don't let his death be in vain' - Christopher Reeve.

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GILL MOULD CHRISOPHER REEVE-'don't let his death be in vain' The actor Christopher Reeve has died of heart failure in hospital in New York on Sunday, at the age of 52. Reeve was one of the most famous supporters of stem cell research. Most of will not have even heard of stem cell research until Reeve began to champion its cause. Not only did Reeves battle paralysis but also the Bush administration which, he believed, had "dropped the ball" on stem-cell research - a form of technology, which could one day provide a cure for people with spinal injuries, like Reeve's What is a stem cell? It's been called "the most important cell ever discovered", because the stem cell can turn into any other cell in the body it is a "mother cell" with the ability to develop into different kinds of tissue. What's so remarkable about these cells is that they can be coaxed into becoming any cell in the body. ...read more.


With chemical manipulation, they could form any other cell in the body. Interest from the outside world increased when John Gearhart at Johns Hopkins University grew a set of cells from the gonads, which suggested that therapeutic cloning was possible. By 2001, a team from Wisconsin believed they could produce an inexhaustible supply of blood cells. For a few years now scientists working with animals have seen that stem cells from bone marrow can help repair a damaged heart. Now researchers in the UK have tried it in human patients. They extracted bone marrow from 14 people who had just had a heart attack, and injected cultured cells from the marrow back into the patients' hearts. Within weeks of treatment, the heart wall was able to contract better, improving the flow of blood around the body. The problem with stem cell research is the source from which they come. ...read more.


Reeve believed that adult stem cells "cannot get the job done" and that the ability to manipulate these forms of cells "could save millions of lives". There is also a strong religious lobbying against using embryonic stem cell research. When the Pope visited George Bush last year, he told the US president that the work was as evil as infanticide, because obtaining the cells involves destroying early stage human embryos, and US Catholic bishops told him that the work is "illegal, immoral and unnecessary". So what then happens in the future? How close is the research to delivering treatments? In addition, will they find that stem cells are actually in adults, which solves the problems of extracting the material from embryos? Alternatively, will it all turn out to be too good to be true and we'll learn that there are too many side effects to make stem cell therapy safe? The above are questions we may never know the answers to, we will just have to wait and see. ...read more.

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