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November 20, 2007

Science! Making Stem Cells From Regular Cells

It seems we may be able to have our cake and eat it too.

Two separate research teams, working independently, have developed techniques to transform regular adult cells into stem cells without embryo cloning or destruction.

"This work represents a tremendous scientific milestone—the biological equivalent of the Wright Brothers' first airplane," said Dr. Robert Lanza, chief science officer of Advanced Cell Technology, which has been trying to extract stem cells from cloned human embryos.

"It's a bit like learning how to turn lead into gold," said Lanza, while cautioning that the work is far from providing medical payoffs.

"It's a huge deal," agreed Rudolf Jaenisch, a prominent stem cell scientist at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass. "You have the proof of principle that you can do it."

There is a catch. At this point, the technique requires disrupting the DNA of the skin cells, which creates the potential for developing cancer. So it would be unacceptable for the most touted use of embryonic cells: creating transplant tissue that in theory could be used to treat diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injury.

But the DNA disruption is just a byproduct of the technique, and experts said they believe it can be avoided.

… "People didn't know it would be this easy," Thomson said. "Thousands of labs in the United States can do this, basically tomorrow."

Of course this is the kind of stem cell research conservatives and gasp, George W. Bush will be able to support. It will be interesting to see how the Democrats react given the mileage they have gotten out of the stem cell issue in the past.


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posted by DrewM. at 12:38 PM

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