by Steven Ertelt
November 14, 2006
Sydney, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Australian scientists say they found a method of overcoming one of the bigger practical objections to embryonic stem cell research. Using seaweed, they say they stopped the cancerous tumors that often develop when embryonic stem cells are injected.
Researchers at the University of New South Wales found they could prevent tumors from growing by encasing embryonic stem cells in seaweed extract, called alginate, before they are transplanted.
Professor Bernie Tuch, the head of the research team, discussed his findings with the Australian Associated Press.
"Whilst embryonic stem cells have great potential to deliver therapies for disorders, such as diabetes, a fear has been that they will form tumors because of the presence of undifferentiated cells," Prof Tuch said.
"Our breakthrough removes what could have been a stumbling block to this vital research," he explained.
But that doesn’t remove the ethical objections to embryonic stem cell research, says Wesley J. Smith, an attorney and author who is a leading American bioethics watchdog.
"Tumorless embryonic stem cells remain ethically contentious since extracting them involves treating a nascent human organism like a crop to be sown and harvested," Smith explained.
The research may possibly help overcome the problem of embryonic stem cells being rejected by a patient’s immune system.
Hwang Woo-suk, the disgraced stem cell researcher who faked his studies, supposedly created patient-specific embryonic stem cells that overcame that problem but he has admitted the research was not authentic.
Tuch’s team used both human and mouse embryonic stem cells to experiment with the seaweed, which he says allow good stem cells to grow but prevent problematic cells from developing.
It found that the alginate appears to survive along with the stem cells for about nine months.
He published the results of the findings today in the journal Transplantation.