Stem cell researcher hopes to slow paralysis, MS

Published: May 1, 2006  |  Source: theunion.com
111

One of the country’s leading stem cell researchers said Monday night that his work one day could help those with spinal cord injuries and/or Multiple Sclerosis.

Speaking before major donors to the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Foundation, Dr. Tom Lane showed a film of partially paralyzed rats walking eight days after they were injected with antibodies made from stem cells.

dr-thomas-laneLane and fellow researcher Hans Keirstead found that the injections halted the spread of an MS-like disease or a spinal injury by allowing the Central Nervous System to heal itself.

But Lane was quick to say, “Sometimes what looks great in animals doesn’t pan out in humans.” However, his technology will soon be the subject of clinical trials in humans on both coasts after being accepted by federal authorities.

Lane is the son-in-law of Dr. Rob Michelin, a retired Nevada County surgeon. He met Michelin’s daughter Kara while doing graduate work at UCLA. A few years later he started the research with others at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UC Irvine.

The center is named after former movie star Christopher Reeve, whose career was ended abruptly by a spinal injury suffered in a fall from a horse. With the help of Reeve and the Irvine family of the Los Angeles area, the center has attracted some of the best spinal cord injury researchers in the world.

Lane said he does not expect the technology to reverse paralysis but it could limit it if induced quickly after an injury. He hopes the same will be found true for MS victims in their early stages.

Most paralyzed people want to walk again, but many simply search for the day when they can use just one finger or a hand to run a computer or change their own Catheter. “They’re realists,” Lane said.

“It’s one step at a time, and you want to generate enthusiasm but not give false hope,” Lane said of the research. He also acknowledged that creating cells with stem cells is controversial and should be scrutinized for political and ethical reasons.

But the promise of stem cells has made researchers foresee using them for the treatment of heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis, eye problems and Osteoporosis, along with paralysis and MS, Lane said.

By Dave Moller
To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.