mm200: Stem cells: Unlike oil, we now have an alternative source

November 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Stem cell research, emblematic of all that’s promising regarding the ability of scientists to remedy hitherto incurable diseases. Stem cell research, emblematic of the George III administration’s wrong-headedness in nearly every important issue of our times.

Until yesterday, stem cell researchers found their most promising source material in human embryos, whose availability is, one presumes, mainly dependent upon the supply resulting from aborting pregnancies.

Since 1973, such supplies have been legally available to science in the U.S. Since the Bush administration outlawed the practice (or severely curtailed the use of new embryonic material by restricting federal funds required to finance it), researchers into cures for the crippling and fatal diseases that include multiple sclerosis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s have been thwarted from fully pursuing this most promising field of research.

Now it appears that scientists have discovered an alternative to embryos as the feedstock for stem cells.

nytimes3

By GINA KOLATA

Published: November 21, 2007

Two teams of scientists reported yesterday that they had turned human skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells without having to make or destroy an embryo — a feat that could quell the ethical debate troubling the field.

All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.

Science in the pursuit of prevention or remediating disease is critical, and the fact that it has been hamstrung over this moral quandary, mainly promoted by those same folks who brought you Creationism, is yet another embarrassing lowlight of the past seven years.

So much of what research has been occurring moved offshore (as so many other occupations have). But, science is always attempting to navigate new ways around knowledge gaps, and this promising achievement is an eye-opening demonstration.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells – New York Times

So there’s much work left to do before this new process is proven successful — the fact that a cancer gene is part of the process sounds distressing — but we can’t help but be hopeful that, after years of roadblocks, necessary research into the causes, prevention and cures of some of the most dreadful diseases can resume at full throttle.

In the long run, the new process might prove to be more useful, with wider application than the controversial one. So in a way, maybe the know-nothings did science a favor.

Irony. Today’s sixth sense.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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