Ky. Research Showing Adult Stem Cells Offer Hope For Gravely Ill

LOUISVILLE -- Caryn Morris leaned forward on a hospital bed with her head in her hands, the hair from her brunette wig hanging down over her face as chemotherapy medication dripped into her body, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

For the second time in nine years, the 36-year-old Louisville woman is fighting a rare and potentially deadly illness called Castleman Disease, an overgrowth of the lymph nodes similar to lymphoma. Chemotherapy is part of her preparation for a stem-cell transplant at the University of Kentucky that will use cells from her own bone marrow.

"This is a way for us to get rid of this, so she can get on with life," said her mother, Alice Jones, sitting beside her in a small chemotherapy room at Consultants in Blood Disorders and Cancer in Louisville, reports the newspaper.

Jones and Morris are putting their hopes on one of the most promising areas of medical research and treatment -- stem cells, which can divide and renew themselves for long periods and become different types of cells within the body.

Therapies using adult stem cells are being used to treat a growing list of diseases, such as leukemia, neuroblastoma and sickle cell anemia. Researchers also are looking at using them to treat autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, reports the newspaper.

Adult stem cells are different from the controversial embryonic cells that have not been used in treatments. Some people hope embryonic stem-cell research, which involves the destruction of human embryos, will someday lead to more cures, while others believe using them destroys human life.

Many people see stem cells as potential miracle cures. Doctors won't go that far, but they do say that current stem-cell therapy represents the best hope for many patients.

Dr. Roger Herzig, director of blood- and bone-marrow transplants at the University of Louisville's James Graham Brown Cancer Center, said about 100 people in the Louisville region receive stem-cell transplants each year, the newspaper reports.

"It can turn an incurable disease into a curable disease," he said. "And it can take people who have essentially no chance for cure and give them a 20 percent chance for a cure."

Morris said she hopes to be one of lucky ones, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

"We're going to see this through," she said. "We did it before and we're going to do it again."

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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