March 4, 2009

THE EMBRYO STRIKES BACK:

Why Embryonic Stem Cells Are Obsolete (Bernadine Healy, M.D., 3/04/09, US News)

Scientists may be growing impatient, but President Obama has been rightly taking his time in addressing a campaign promise to lift the ban on federal funding for research using new lines of stem cells to be taken from human embryos. Even for strong backers of embryonic stem cell research, the decision is no longer as self-evident as it was, because there is markedly diminished need for expanding these cell lines for either patient therapy or basic research. In fact, during the first six weeks of Obama's term, several events reinforced the notion that embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and diabetes, are obsolete. The most sobering: a report from Israel published in PLoS Medicine in late February that shows embryonic stem cells injected into patients can cause disabling if not deadly tumors.

The report describes a young boy with a fatal neuromuscular disease called ataxia telangiectasia, who was treated with embryonic stem cells. Within four years, he developed headaches and was found to have multiple tumors in his brain and spinal cord that genetically matched the female embryos used in his therapy.

His experience is neither an anomaly nor a surprise, but one feared by many scientists. These still-mysterious cell creations have been removed from the highly ordered environment of a fast-growing embryo, after all.


It's a shame so many otherwise decent people went over to the Dark Side for nothing.

MORE:
Stem Cells: Skin Deep: Researchers find breakthrough non-viral method for reprogramming skin cells into stem cells (Christine Cyr, 03.04.2009 , Popular Science)

Over the past decade, no topic has been more controversial in the worlds of science, politics, and religion than stem cell research. Of course, the debate has centered over the ethics of harvesting embryonic stem cells to cure degenerative diseases. But researchers at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto may have solved the problem by devising a method to turn human skin cells into stem cells so that can be safely transplanted into humans.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 4, 2009 12:55 PM
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