Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Turning Skin Cells Into Stem Cells

This certainly seems to be an incredibly positive development (link to Wired):

In an unprecedented feat of biological alchemy, researchers have turned human skin cells into stem cells that hold the same medical promise as controversial embryonic stem cells.

Two teams of researchers -- one led by Kyoto University's Shinya Yamanaka, the other by the University of Wisconsin's Junying Yu -- used a virus to add four new genes to skin cells. Thus transformed, the reprogrammed cells became capable of changing into nearly any cell type in the human body. Embryonic stem cells also have this ability, and may someday be used to cure degenerative diseases, grow new organs and even replace limbs.

If this pans out, it could eliminate the moral issues of using embryonic stem cells, or the moral arguments at least. Though on that issue, I do not really personally see any moral issue at play. Of course, at the moment, embryonic stem cell researchers have no intention of abandoning what they are presently doing. But perhaps the greater availability will lead to important medical advances.

1 comment:

Soccer Dad said...

So far the only successful stem cell therapies that have been developed have been from adult stem cells.

No successful therapies have been developed embryonic stem cells yet. It is thought that embryonic stem cells are more flexible (which is why many champion them) but they (I think) are also less stable. (The problem, I think, is that they often mutate into cancerous cells.)

Charles Krauthammer had an excellent column cutting through much of the fog surrounding the issue 3 years ago.


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