Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Cell Creation Breakthrough Might Avoid Use of Embryonic Stem Cells

That's what MSNBC is reporting. If the research pans out, it would avoid the nasty and controversial use of embryonic stem cells.

The procedure doesn't even use embryos, and instead relies upon skin cells:
In a big step toward a long-sought goal, three teams of scientists say they’ve produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, at least in mice, without taking the controversial step of destroying embryos.

Their procedure makes ordinary skin cells behave like stem cells. If the same can be done with human cells — a big if — the procedure could lead to breakthrough medical treatments without the contentious ethical and political debates surrounding the use of embryos.

Embryonic stem cells can give rise to all types of tissue, so experts believe they might be used to create transplant therapies for people who are paralyzed or have ilnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson’s disease.
The scientists appear to have figured out a way to reprogram ordinary cells to make them operate as stem cells. Right now, the research is limited to tests in mice. It will be some time before the research can be applied to human subjects.

Others blogging this development: Sister Toldjah, The Corner, Mesa Blue, Dread Pundit Bluto, Holy Whapping, Redstate, and Physorg.

Tim F. at Balloon Juice puts it thusly:
Assuming that the work translates to humans, which seems likely, the ethical logjam over stem cell research has been definitively broken. Drawing on my own relevant work I can say that the techniques used here are surprisingly simple and easy to translate into a therapy. If so, and plenty of hurdles always lie between proof-of-principle and usable applications, we can soon have a near-endless supply of stem cell lines that carry no more ethical taint than the thousands of ordinary cell lines in common use. Tissue-matching embryonic cells to a patient could prove as simple as a minor skin biopsy. It is not an exaggeration to say that many see the adult-to-stem cell conversion as the Grail of stem cell research.
Bring it On! notes some of the difficulties that need to be overcome.

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