Every human life has value.

Here’s a few good ethical life science news stories for you:

Scientists say menstrual blood can repair hearts:

Scientists obtained menstrual blood from nine women and cultivated it for about a month, focusing on a kind of cell that can act like stem cells.

Some 20 percent of the cells began beating spontaneously about three days after being put together in vitro with cells from the hearts of rats. The cells from menstrual blood eventually formed sheet-like heart-muscle tissue.

The success rate is 100 times higher than the 0.2-0.3 percent for stem cells taken from human bone marrow, according to Shunichiro Miyoshi, a cardiologist at Keio University’s school of medicine, who is involved in the research.

Separate in-vivo experiments showed that the condition of rats who had suffered heart attacks improved after they received the cells derived from menstrual blood.

Miyoshi said women may eventually be able to use their own menstrual blood.

“There may be a system in the near future that allows women to use it for their own treatment,” Miyoshi told AFP on Thursday.

Gene therapy improves sight in near-blind patients

LOS ANGELES/LONDON (Reuters) – Gene therapy for a rare type of inherited blindness has improved the vision of four patients who tried it, boosting hopes for the troubled field of gene repair technology, scientists said on Sunday.

Two separate teams of doctors reported successes in using gene therapy to treat Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA.

LCA damages light receptors in the retina. It usually begins affecting sight in early childhood and causes total blindness by the time a patient is 30. There is no treatment.

Both teams used a common cold virus to deliver a normal version of one damaged gene that causes the disease, called RPE65, directly into the eyes of patients.

Although both trials were only testing for safety, patients reported they could see a little better afterwards, the researchers told a meeting of eye specialists in Florida and also reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Stem cell hope for fixing injured knees (h/t: Vital Signs):

Up to 60 Victorians are to trial a simple injection scientists believe could replace drugs – and even surgery – in treating debilitating osteoarthritis.

It could also prolong the careers of athletes, including AFL players, regularly sidelined by common cartilage tears.

Melbourne-based biotechnology company Mesoblast recently completed successful animal trials of the hi-tech procedure and believe there is a “billion-dollar market” for their technique.

The Australian trials found the injection of adult stem cells – taken from human donors’ bone marrow, abdominal fat, hip, skin or teeth – protected damaged knee cartilage for up to nine months.

Professor Silviu Itescu, Mesoblast’s director and chief scientific adviser, said the injected stem cells bound themselves to the cartilage, halting its degeneration.

April 28th, 2008 at 5:41 pm