stem cells, regeneration and gene therapy

James Webster jwebster at sirius.com
Thu May 17 17:25:40 EST 2001

I am a writer exploring the possiblities of both stem cell research and
gene therapy. My particular interest lies in tissue regeneration,
especially that of the CNS. As a lay person, I find these topics
fascinating but at times confusing, and I was wondering if you might be
able to answer a few simple questions for me.

Lately there has been some publicity surrounding the use of stem cells as
an alternative to retroviruses and adenoviruses as shuttles for gene
therapy. There has also been a lot of publicity about the possible use of
stem cells (as well as Schwann cells) to repair CNS damage. One question:
would the latter involve engineered stem cells, or just stem cells from
the individual in question? 

Question two: if a gene sequence were found that somehow "switched on" a
body's ability to regenerate tissue, as a salamander can regenerate a lost
limb, do you believe this would involve tissue-specific vectors, i.e.
separate vectors for nerves, muscle, etc., or a more generic, conspecific
approach that would benefit best from stem cells? 

Though several people I know are quadraplegic, none realistically expect a
"cure" from this sort of therapy; the consensus in the disabled community
seems to be that Christopher Reeve is impossibly upbeat. I share their
scepticism, but I am interested in what's theoretically possible, say
within the next 20-30 years. 

Thank you for your time,

Jim Webster
jsibleywebster at mindspring.com

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