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November 29, 2007

Comments

If the new skin cell technique really is a viable method, I am so relieved and so happy. That would be a tremendous relief to those of who do see ESCR as murdering a human. One less thing to worry about!

Brad

This is just a beginning and required an understanding of how stem cells work. The limitations on stem cell research probably delayed things.

"This discovery is probably going to become a political football in short order, with the far right politicians who have restricted American research into embryonic stem cells claiming vindication. However, let's point out some realities here. Americans did not make this discovery; Japanese researchers did. It required understanding of gene expression in embryonic stem cells, an understanding that was hampered in our country. It's going to require much more confirmation and comparison between the induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells as part of the process of making this technique useful — science doesn't take just one result from a few labs and accept it as gospel truth. And we definitely need to figure out better ways of switching the four genes on. Figuring that out will require more research into how organisms switch cells into the ES state in situ — we can't figure that out from these cells with inserted, artificial gene constructs.

Another essential point is that scientists are excited about this work because it opens up avenues for basic research into development and differentiation. These cells are NOT useable for therapies…the immediate, practical applications that the electorate wants from stem cell research. They also cannot be used for reproductive cloning, although that won't trouble most people. These are cells with retroviral infections, potential unknown mutations, and that have genetic modifications that make them prone to collapse into cancers. We are not going to be able to grow new organs and tissues for human beings from a few skin cells using this particular technique. It's going to take more work on embryonic stem cells to figure out how to take any cell from your body, and cleanly and elegantly switch it to a stem cell state that can be molded into any organ you need. What this work says is that yes, we'll be able to do that, it isn't going to be that difficult, and that we ought to be supporting more stem cell research right now so we can work out the details.

Myers also has a explanation w/slides at:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/11/stem_cell_breakthrough.php

I'll point out that this: "that we ought to be supporting more stem cell research right now so we can work out the details." is not a scientific claim.

Whether scientists get excited by something is not grounds for making moral judgments in my mind.

I find this a poor excuse: "Americans did not make this discovery; Japanese researchers did. It required understanding of gene expression in embryonic stem cells, an understanding that was hampered in our country."

This implies that without Federal funds our scientists just can't make the grade.

Hi William, I think a fair reading of all this is that we have a breakthrough that will eventually allow "mass production" but there will still be a need for some research that will still need embryonic stem cells. All I have read adds up to this being a very preliminary development and a lot more needs to be done.

There are indirect problems that come from restricted federal funding that require wasteful duplication and can limit research participation in some institutions.

Not related, but:

http://www.postcrescent.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071129/APC0101/71129075

Hi Robert, the relevant Wisconsin statute is similar to California's.
"940.01(1)(a)
(a) Except as provided in sub. (2), whoever causes the death of another human being with intent to kill that person or another is guilty of a Class A felony.

940.01(1)(b)
(b) Except as provided in sub. (2), whoever causes the death of an unborn child with intent to kill that unborn child, kill the woman who is pregnant with that unborn child or kill another is guilty of a Class A felony.

"In the same way, the recent tandem advances in the United States and by Shinya Yamanaka's team in Japan are far from being a Holy Grail, as Charles Krauthammer inaccurately described them. Though potential landmarks, these studies are only a first step on the long road toward eventual therapies."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/02/AR2007120201636.html

Perhaps Fox News isn't the best place to get our science news.

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