Surgeons Perform Ground-breaking Stem Cell Operation

A Shanghai hospital has opened the door for China or even the world to make further steps in neurosurgery after a successful ground-breaking operation.

Neurosurgeons in Huashan Hospital, attached to Fudan University, are taking advantage of adult stem cells to treat neurologically injured patients rather than using stem cells isolated from fetal tissues, a controversial method.

Adult stem cells are the original cells from which others are formed. In this operation, they were taken from the patient's own brain tissue.

To date, most operations of this nature have been carried out using cells from fetal tissue taken from discarded placenta, sources from the hospital revealed.

The operation, done 20 days ago, was the first attempt to perform an adult neural stem cell transplant in which donor and recipient were the same person, said hospital sources.

The patient was a 40-year-old local woman with an open-skull fracture and brain laceration resulting from a head injury.

To graft the wound, doctors collected neural tissues from the patient's own wound, isolating and cloning adult neural stem cells from the primary cell culture.

After encouraging the cells to multiply, doctors re-inserted the stem cells into the patient's brain.

The patient is currently recovering and regaining her cognitive abilities, recognizing her family and becoming orientated, according to Professor Zhu Jianhong, who led the adult neural stem cell study in Huashan Hospital.

"The value of this successful surgery doesn't much lie in its technology," said Zhu. "More importantly, it is a great opportunity to evaluate the therapeutic potential of adult stem cells in treating damaged brains.

"However, the effects of adult stem cell surgery cannot be generalized from this simple surgery because conditions were somewhat unusual."

"The adult stem cells cultivated this time for the patient came from her own tissue, thus causing no immune response or compatibility problem," Zhu said.

He implied that more research was needed before a definite conclusion could be reached over whether adult stem cells can replace those cultured from fetal tissues.

Since the beginning of research into stem cell surgery, the worldwide use of fetal tissues has drawn widespread criticism because of the ethical problems involved.

(People's Daily 06/21/2001)

In This Series



Web Link