Stem cell breakthrough uses human skin not embryos

Discussion in 'Health and Lifestyle' started by Shogun, Nov 21, 2007.

  1. Shogun
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    Shogun Free: Mudholes Stomped

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    Stem cell cultures are held up in a US lab. Two groups of scientists have successfully transformed human skin cells into stem cells, potentially granting unlimited access to the foundation cells which can replace diseased or damaged tissues and organs, it was announced Tuesday.

    The discovery opens the door for promising research into using the blank-slate stem cells to test new drugs and study how diseases function without being forced to destroy embryos in the process, which has led to legal restrictions on research in the United States.


    The researchers in Japan and the United States have also eliminated a major hurdle to using stem cells in treatments. The stem cells could eventually be generated with a specific patient's genetic code, eliminating the risk that the body would reject transplanted tissues or organs.

    The new method is expected to rapidly advance research in the treatment of cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, diabetes, arthritis, spinal cord injuries, strokes, burns and heart disease because scientists will have much greater access to stem cells.

    "(The) work is monumental in its importance to the field of stem cell science and its potential impact on our ability to accelerate the benefits of this technology to the bedside," said Deepak Srivastava, director of the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease.

    "Not only does this discovery enable more research, it offers a new pathway to apply the benefits of stem cells to human disease."

    Stem cells are seen as a possible magic bullet because they can be developed into any of the 220 types of cells in the human body.

    But research has been limited in the United States because of ethical concerns, and very few labs have had the resources and technical expertise to work with embryonic stem cells.

    The new method is fairly straightforward and can be repeated by standard labs with relative ease, said study author James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

    "My personal barometer of optimism has gone up a lot," Thomson said in a conference call.

    "Funding is finally going to go up because this does remove the political debate. And as we engage more and more people in the United States things are going to accelerate."

    The White House hailed the discovery as a means of solving medical problems "without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life."

    Two teams of researchers were simultaneously able to transform the skin cells by using a retrovirus to insert four different genes into the cells.

    The Japanese team, led by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, managed to produce one stem cell line out of every 5,000 cells.

    "This efficiency may sound very low, but it means that from one experiment, with a single ten centimeter dish, you can get multiple iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cell lines," he said, referring to a stem cell type capable of creating any type of cell in the body except those of the placenta.

    The US team, led by Thomson, reprogrammed one of every 10,000 cells but did so without the use of a gene that is known to cause cancer.

    Both techniques have the risk of mutation because the cells retained copies of the virus used to deliver the genes.

    The crucial next step is to find a way to switch on the genes that cause the skin cells to regress into stem cells rather than relying on the retrovirus to insert the genes.

    "It's almost inconceivable at the pace this science is moving that we won't find a way to do this," stem cell researcher Douglas Melton of Harvard University told Science magazine.

    The ability to design patient-specific and disease-specific stem cells ought to help push research forward even before the mutation risk is eliminated.

    "These cells should be extremely useful in understanding disease mechanisms and screening effective and safe drugs," Yamanaka said. "If we can overcome safety issues, we may be able to use human iPS cells in cell transplantation therapies."

    While the skin cells may eventually prove to be more useful than embryonic stem cells, Yamanaka cautioned that it would be "premature to conclude that iPS cells can replace embryonic stem cells."

    "We are still a long way from finding cures or therapies from stem cells and we don't know what processes will be effective," he added.

    Thomson cautioned it could be a couple years before researchers resolve all the problems with iPS cells and can confirm that they do not eventually act differently than embryonic stem cells.

    Thomson's paper will be published Thursday in the online edition of Science magazine. Yamanaka's paper will be published in the November 30 edition of the journal Cell. Both were released Tuesday.

    Stem cells: Replenishment cells in the forefront of medical research

    Stem cells are primal cells, capable of producing different types of tissue ranging from muscle and liver to brain and heart cells.

    Their diversity has unleashed enormous interest among scientists, who hope to use them as transplant material or as the template to grow replacement tissue in the lab, replenishing the body after injury or the ravages of diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's.

    There are two general types of stem cells.

    The first are embryonic stem cells, which differentiate into the full range of the body's tissues.

    Embryonic stem cells are especially valued by scientists because of their versatility.

    But their use in research also generates controversy, given objections by the Catholic church and other religious groups which say embryos have the same moral status as a living baby.

    The second are adult stem cells, which repair and renew the body by generating replacements for damaged and dead cells.

    Adult stem cells are found particularly in bone marrow, which can generate red and white blood cells, and in the skin. They are categorised according to their ability to generate one or more types of specialized cells.

    http://www.physorg.com/news114773905.html

    Scientists Bypass Need for Embryo to Get Stem Cells
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/science/21stem.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Stem cell breakthrough defuses debate
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071120/ap_on_sc/stem_cells;_ylt=AmErf_9ZFCZYj4HUnH3kQCQPLBIF

    For Jillian and Kath.
     
  2. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Thanks Shogun, I know I posted a 'is this related' around here, somewhere? Happy Thanksgiving or day of mourning, whatever it is you are doing tomorrow!

    I agree that this holds a lot of promise, it's amazing what science is doing.
     
  3. AllieBaba
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    And they did it without using dead babies.
     
  4. Ninja
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    Ninja Senior Member

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    I'm cautiously optimistic. The results haven't been published yet, but reading the bastardized CNN article it sounds as though they assayed for certain markers and then said "look - stem cells!" They may just be detecting some type of artifact. Or the result is real. Jamie Thompson is legit, but the field's so competitive that you tend to come across a lot of papers where the effect the authors claim to measure is in the "iffy" area - somewhere between being a real result and background noise. I'm reserving judgement until the two groups publish in a peer-reviewed journal.
     
  5. jillian
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    My concern about this is that the cells have to go through some retrovirus treatment and they don't know what the effects of that are going to be. I'm not sure I'd want anything treated by a retrovirus in my body.

    But its certainly worth looking into. But I don't think they should ignore options to pacify fringe groups.
     
  6. Gunny
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    Gunny Gold Member

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    I don't see these having to be treated with retorvirus as any different than any other kind of cells. Embryonic stem cells were proven to be uncontrollable and tumorous ... rather have that?

    Me? I'm going to just die of whatever I die of and you can keep Dr Frankenstein and Fritz away from me.
     
  7. jillian
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    jillian Princess Supporting Member

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    I can honestly say I have never heard anything about embryonic stem cells being uncontrollable and tumorous. I'd be interested in seeing something credible indicating that's the case and what it means.

    Regardless, if there's a better way to do it, I don't care how. I understand what you're saying about dying of whatever it is you die from. But the thing is, with diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons and the like, you don't die all at once. You die piece by piece and destroy pieces of your family's lives with you. It's a terrible thing when grandma no longer recognizes her grandchildren or children. Trust me, I know. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
     
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  8. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    I have 2 dead brothers, 1 dead uncle and 1 dead aunt that dedicated their remains to science in the hopes of obtaining knowledge for the rest of us to use in whatever can be obtained from their illneses and life's situations. I also choose to allow science to use my remains for whatever purpose, if any, that might be obtained.


    Why would dead babies care? And more pointedly, why would the same God that gives us scientists, doctors, medicines, and intelligence care? I thinketh you draw too much from your own fears.
     
  9. AllieBaba
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    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond.

    It's not that dead babies care, it's creating a market out of dead babies, insisting that babies need to be used, when that just isn't true. That in turn can be used to justify otherwise unnecessary abortions.

    I have absolutely no problem with people dedicating their bodies to science. My problem is with the pro-abortion crowd who have insisted that embryonic stem cell research is NECESSARY, and reaps scientific benefits that can't be achieved with any other stem cell source.
     
  10. Psychoblues
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    Psychoblues Senior Member

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    Please don't let me interrupt your moral fortitude.


    Stem Cells are not harvested from viable human life. They result from a gift of GOD that allows our population to scientifically solve problems beset upon us by the Devil that daily harvests illnesses and disease upon us and for which our God allows him to do so. It is up to us to figure it all out.
     

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