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More Medical Miracles

Will medical miracles never cease? In early results from a clinical trial, genetically engineered T cells (a type of white blood cell) killed off leukemia cells. Two out of three patients who received this treatment have been cancer-free for over a year. T cells could be engineered to kill a range of cancers, including cancers of the breast and colon. And approximately 60 million people across the globe have chronic kidney disease, and many will need dialysis or a transplant. Breakthrough research shows that a patient's OWN kidney cells can be gathered and reprogrammed. This means that in the future, fewer patients with kidney disease would require complicated, expensive procedures that affect their quality of life.

Researchers have been working for many years to develop cancer treatments that allow a patient's own immune system to kill tumors. In the August 11th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Eryn Brown quotes researcher Gary Schiller as saying, "It is kind of a holy grail." In other words, it's a long quest that is finally being fulfilled.

Meanwhile, researcher Sharon Ricardo and her colleagues took cells from an individual's kidney and coaxed them to become progenitor cells, which are capable of forming other cells. In another study, researcher Miguel Esteban and his team found that kidney cells collected from a patient’s urine can also be reprogrammed in this way. Even better, the urine cells can be frozen and later thawed before they are manipulated. If researchers can expand the reprogrammed cells and return them to the patient, they may restore the health and vitality of the kidneys. In addition to providing a potentially curative therapy for patients, the breakthroughs might also help investigators to study the causes of kidney disease and to screen new drugs that could be used to treat them. It's another medical miracle!

Yet ANOTHER miracle: There's preliminary evidence that squirting insulin deep into the nose so that it travels to the brain might stave off early Alzheimer's. Since insulin is the antidote for diabetes (the disease Anne Strieber has) why should this be? One symptom of Alzheimer's disease is reduced metabolism in the brain, which shows up on scans as less use of glucose, which is the fuel for brain cells. Therefore, patients getting the insulin squirts got more glucose into their brains. And beta amyloid, a toxic protein that accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, seems to bind with the insulin that's already in the brain, so that it can't be used.

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