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Stem cells offer the hope

  of doing what his own body cannot Like Judson, a rat has a severed spine. To treat it, doctors twisted fibers into the shape of spinal cord, seeded them with stem cells and implanted them into the rat's back. Stem cells offer the hope of doing what his own body cannotStem cells offer the hope of doing what his own body cannot Stimulated by a molecular signal, the stem cells started to grow, forming new spinal tissue. The results surpassed all expectations. When we started this project we were hoping to see any sign of neurological recovery, such as movement of a toe maybe, is what our initial hope was. And this was just completely unexpected. The effects of stem cell therapy were dramatic. Although still weak, the rat's legs are moving. Messages from the brain are getting through. On other rats show how well the spinal cord had regrown.
So rat stem cells can patch up a rat's spine. But to fix his spine, Judson would need human stem cells, preferably stem cells that won't be rejected by his body. Cells that match his own DNA. Judson needs stem cells cloned from his own body. Paul Nurse (Cell Biologist, Winner of a Nobel Prize) "To get stem cells what you really need is an embryo of the patient that we're trying to treat. And the only way we can do that is by cloning, that is by taking one of the cells of the patient, putting it into an egg - a human egg, and then allowing that egg to turn into an embryo and produce the stem cells that we need. And it's by this cloning process that we can generate cells that won't be rejected by the patient's body." And this is why Jose Cibelli (Vice President of Research, ACT) is preparing to clone cells from Judson. He passionately believes that this process called Therapeutic Cloning could transform the lives of many people. A recent survey is saying that about 120 million people can potentially benefit from this therapy, so this is a revolution in medicine. And such a revolution could impact on all our lives. Imagine, you're driving home. Your kidneys, liver, heart all damaged beyond repair. While you're on life support plans for growing replacement parts can begin. Using cloned stem cells doctors will grow spare parts that are exact doubles of the originals. Dr Tony Atala, Director of Tissue Emgineering Chilrens Hospital, BostonDr Tony Atala, Director of Tissue Emgineering Chilrens Hospital, Boston The secret ingredient that gives an embryo its power to grow and develop is a mysterious cell called an embryonic stem cell. They first appear about a week after fertilization. At this point the embryo is just a small clump of cells. Among them are a few stem cells.
The human stem cells are unique, they alone can transform themselves into any kind of human cell.
A nerve cell, for example. As it divides it will build a brain and spinal tissue.
A heart cell. Eventually, multiplying enough times to construct a whole heart.
Doctor Tony Atala is fascinated by the potential of stem cells. He sees many children whose bodies are ravaged by disease, children who could benefit from stem cell technology.
In his lab he's growing new body parts and testing them on animals.
Let's say that a patient needs a windpipe, we can take a small biopsy from that patient, grow the cells outside of the body, and then seed them onto a mould in the shape of a windpipe, and then it creates a windpipe tissue which we're able to implant back into the patient.
And in fact, what you're seeing here is a windpipe which is the size that would be used in a human. He's already built blood vessels. And created a kidney using rat stem cells. We have a much more complex structure, a kidney, and this is a miniature kidney, but when implanted experimentally, we can actually see it make urine.
And hopefully, in 10 years, this technology would be available for patients with kidney failure.
Any type of tissue can be grown in this way.
Even spinal tissue.