Friday, November 23, 2007

Maybe this will make the controversy go away

Stem-Cell Breakthrough - Controversy never helps science, and the science of stem cells does have a lot of promise.

But this is about getting the "embryonic" out of the stem-cell research. Reprogramming cells to act like stem-cells, created for each patient, sounds like a better bet. No rejection problems with new tissue.

The long-term goal, for anyone who has missed the meaning in the stem-cell screaming, is to be able to repair damaged tissue - including nerve tissue - with the stem-cells. I suppose the science-fiction view would be to grow replacement organs for people who need transplants.
Remarkably, iPSCs [reprogrammed stems] have all the relevant properties that make embryonic stem cells so attractive: They grow indefinitely and can produce all cell types. The senior scientist of the American team is James Thomson, who first described human embryonic stem cells in 1998. Thus, his conclusion that iPSCs are virtually identical to embryo-derived stem cells carries special weight.
Any benefits are still years away, and since this is phase 1, there will be problems and risks. But technology usually advances.
Direct reprogramming techniques make it possible to generate pluripotent cells from specific individuals, including those with particular diseases. It will be possible to make iPSCs from children with Fanconi's anemia, a devastating genetic disease, and to study the effects of candidate drugs on the formation of human blood. These kinds of experiments are now immediately possible and likely will be the first practical application of iPSCs.
So if everyone abandons the embryonic version of stem-cell research, and the people screaming about that aspect shut the f&^# up, then maybe we can get some work done in this area.

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