July 21, 2006


What a Bush veto would mean for stem cells (NANCY GIBBS, ALICE PARK, MIKE ALLEN, MASSIMO CALABRESI, July 17, 2006, TIME)

The good news for all sides is that over the course of this long argument, researchers have learned more about how stem cells work, and the science has outrun the politics. Adult cells, such as those found in bone marrow, were thought to be less valuable than embryonic cells, which are "pluripotent" master cells that can turn into anything from a brain cell to a toenail. But adult cells may be more elastic than scientists thought, and could offer shortcuts to treatment that embryonic cells can't match.

Researchers have discovered that many tissues and organs contain precursor cells that act in many ways like stem cells. The skin, intestines, liver, brain and bone marrow contain these stem cell-- mimicking cells, which could become a reservoir of replacement cells for treating diseases such as leukemias, stroke and some cancers. "Brain stem-cells can make almost all cell types in the brain, and that may be all we need if we want to treat Parkinson's disease or ALS," says Dr. Arnold Kriegstein, who directs the University of California at San Francisco's Institute for Regeneration Medicine. "Embryonic stem cells might not be necessary in those cases." When it comes to treating heart disease, "if you could find a progenitor cell in the adult heart that has the ability to replicate," says Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, "then it's likely easier to start with that cell than begin with an embryonic stem cell, which has too many options."

Cheerleaders for adult stem-cell research point to progress on everything from spinal-cord injuries to diabetes. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have used umbilical-cord-blood stem cells to improve some neurological function; in a paper published last month, Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal wrote about restoring some motor function and sensation in a few paralyzed patients. At a recent conference of researchers from around the world, a team from Kyoto University in Japan reported success in taking a skin cell, exposing it to four key growth factors and turning it into an embryo-like entity that produced stem cells--all without using an egg. The Kyoto group has submitted its work for publication, after which it will be open to the scrutiny of the scientific community. If successful, it could turn stem-cell science from a tedious, finicky process into a relatively straightforward chemistry project.

The embryonic stem cells aren't needed, some folks are just in love with Death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 21, 2006 2:22 PM

Wow, I finally agree with OJ. Now if I can only convince him that islam is also in love with Death, and that the word "illegal" when applied to immigrants changes everything ...

Posted by: darryl at July 22, 2006 2:13 AM

"turning it into an embryo-like entity that produced stem cells"

And what types of cells would differentiate if allowed?

Just how "embryo-like" is this "entity"?

Posted by: Wonderin'aloud at July 22, 2006 9:26 AM