20 November 2008

With the help of stem cells, it was possible to restore hearing and vision

Yuri Zhigalkin, Radio Liberty

For the first time, American and South Korean scientists (National Eye Institute, USA, Chonnam National University in Gwang-ju, South Korea) managed to restore vision and hearing with the help of stem cells. However, so far only in experiments with guinea pig and tadpole. However, these amazing experiments, according to experts, can be the first step towards restoring vision and hearing in humans.

The news is commented by Professor of Medicine Daniil Golubev.

– The epiphany of the blind has always belonged to the category of classical miracles. Do you think that these experiments can also be attributed to miracles?

– In relation to those experimental models that are selected, very clearly documented and studied, it really resembles a miracle. Guinea pigs whose hearing is turned off by chemical agents tightly, the cells have died, begin to hear after the transplantation described. And blind tadpoles that do not react to light at all, under the influence of a similar procedure, begin to react to light. It looks like a miracle, but experimental.

– What is the essence of the experiments?

– We are talking about the use of embryonic stem cells as a drug, if you like, which stimulates the replacement of dead cells with functionally effective corresponding visual or auditory nerve cells. In the first case, when it comes to guinea pigs, stem cells were used, by the way, of human origin, obtained from human bone marrow, which suggests that there are common mechanisms in the process of differentiation from stem cells into functionally active cells of any origin – human or animal. In the second case, we are talking about stem embryonic cells obtained from the skin of frogs. It is known that seven special growth factors were used in the process of their cultivation, which activated genes in them that are responsible for visual perception. And then, when a suspension of such cells was injected into a frog embryo, living, healthy tadpoles were born that react to light, unlike those embryos where these centers were suppressed by chemicals.

– Recently, we have been hearing about amazing experiments with stem cells: this is the restoration of completely lost functions, as in these experiments, in Spain, an artificially grown trachea is implanted in a patient, in Finland, a jaw is grown for a patient. How soon will the many hopes begin to materialize?

– The first act of the administration of the new President Barack Obama announced that state budget funding for stem cell research will be restored. I can't say that this is an absolutely solved task, but it is the task of tomorrow, and most importantly, it is the only opportunity to return functional activity to specific, specialized areas that, for one reason or another, are permanently affected.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru20.11.2008

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