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SnakebyteXX
08-22-2005, 09:51 AM
Advance could alter debate over rules on funding research
Rick Weiss, Washington Post

Monday, August 22, 2005

Washington -- Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells -- without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, as has previously been required, a Harvard research team announced Sunday.

The new technique uses laboratory grown human embryonic stem cells -- such as the ones President Bush has already approved for use by federally funded researchers -- to reprogram the genes in a person's skin cell, turning that skin cell into an embryonic stem cell itself.

Moreover, since the new stem cells made this way are essentially rejuvenated versions of a person's own skin cells, the DNA in those new stem cells matches the DNA of the person who provided the skin cells. In theory at least, that means that any tissues grown from those newly minted stem cells could be transplanted into the person to treat a disease without much risk that they would be rejected, since they would constitute an exact genetic match.

Cloning controversy

Until now, the only way to turn a person's ordinary cell into a personalized stem cell such as this was to turn that ordinary cell into an embryo first and later destroy the embryo to retrieve the new stem cells growing inside -- a process widely known as therapeutic cloning.

That prospect, like others in the promising arena of human embryonic stem cell research, has stirred strong emotions among those who believe that days- old human embryos should not be intentionally destroyed.

The new approach, which is to be published later this week in the journal Science but was made public on the journal's Web site Sunday, could offer an end run around the heated social and religious debate that has for years overshadowed the field of human embryonic stem cell research.

Embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming virtually any kind of cell or tissue and are being intensely studied around the world as the core of a newly emerging field of regenerative medicine, in which researchers hope to grow new tissues to revitalize ailing organs.

If a few lingering uncertainties can be dealt with successfully, the new technique "may circumvent some of the logistical and societal concerns" that have hampered much of the research in this country, report Chad A. Cowan, Kevin Eggan and colleagues from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in the Science article.

Technical hurdles

The researchers emphasize in their report that the technique is still far from finding application in medicine. Most importantly, they note: Because it involves the fusion of a stem cell and a person's ordinary skin cell, the process leads to the creation of a hybrid cell. While that cell has all the characteristics of a new embryonic stem cell, it contains the DNA of the person who donated the skin cell and also the DNA of the initial embryonic stem cell.

At some point before these hybrid cells are coaxed to grow into replacement parts to be transplanted into a person, that extra DNA must be extracted, the researchers write. The team describes this task as a substantial technical barrier to the clinical use of stem cells made by the new technique.

They do not mention that several teams, including one in Illinois and another in Australia, have said in recent interviews that they are making progress removing stem cell DNA from such hybrid cells. Even if the work does not lead directly to clinical applications, the researchers conclude, it is likely to boost the amount and quality of research into what stem cells really are and how they work.

web page (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/08/22/MNGJKEBANC1.DTL)

eg8r
08-23-2005, 06:44 AM
[ QUOTE ]
Embryonic stem cells are capable of becoming virtually any kind of cell or tissue and are being intensely studied around the world as the core of a newly emerging field of regenerative medicine, in which researchers hope to grow new tissues to revitalize ailing organs.
<hr /></blockquote> This is all fascinating stuff but I wish they would slow down a little until Uncle Ted and a few other outspoken politicians pass away. /ccboard/images/graemlins/smile.gif

eg8r