Ethical Stem Cell Research Method Conquers Cancer Concern, Cures Mice

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 7, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Ethical Stem Cell Research Method Conquers Cancer Concern, Cures Mice Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 7,

Washington, DC ( — Two weeks ago, scientists from Japan and Wisconsin announced they had come up with a method of converting adult stem cells into an embryonic-like state. The scientists have furthered their own work by showing that they can produce the iPS cells without the cancer gene that was a focus of concern.

After Dr. Yamanaka first announced that his team had created the "induced Pluripotent Stem cells" (iPS cells) directly from skin cells without having to destroy human embryos, some scientists discounted the value of iPS cells, claiming that they’re a cancer risk.

They also claimed it could take years to prove that iPS cells are as useful as embryonic stem cells or cloning.

Last week, however, Dr. Yamanaka continued to silence critics by producing the cells without the cancer gene.

Now, scientists at MIT added to the growing list of iPS accomplishments by proving that these cells can be used to successfully treat of sickle cell anemia in mice. Researchers had tried the same experiment with cloning and failed.

"This is the first evaluation of these cells for therapy," said Dr. Jacob Hanna, who worked on the study with researchers at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research in Cambridge.

Rudolf Jaenisch, a member of the Whitehead Institute team, told Reuters, "This demonstrates that iPS cells have the same potential for therapy as embryonic stem cells, without the ethical and practical issues raised in creating embryonic stem cells."

Pro-life groups applauded the news.

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council told, "Let’s not forget that this newfound success of iPS cells only adds to the long list of accomplishments of adult and cord blood stem cells, which are treating patients as we speak."

"Yet again, researchers are proving that the compatibility of science and ethics continues to be not only the most principled approach but also the most promising," he said.