Ethical Method of Creating Embryonic-Like Stem Cells Overcomes More Hurdles

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 17, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 17,

Washington, DC ( — The new direct reprogramming method of turning skin or other types of cells into those that have embryonic-like properties has overcome more hurdles. Professor Shinya Yamanaka announced this weekend that his team has found a way to grow the cells without inducing tumors.

Apart from the ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cell research — namely, that unborn children are killed to obtain the cells — embryonic stem cells have never been used in humans because tumors can develop.

Professor Yamanaka, who, along with scientists in Wisconsin, came up with a technique to generate embryonic-like stem cells without destroying human life, says he can now bypass the tumor issue with the ethical cells.

The worldwide scientific community was largely supported of his work when he announced the creation of the embryonic-like cells. However, many scientists who back embryonic stem cell research said the controversial method was still needed.

Yamanaka’s team took a gigantic leap forward in silencing critics with the news that he has successfully avoided this problem for six months in the mice that he is currently treating with iPS cells from the direct reprogramming.

The news that Yamanaka is making progress with the ethical cells delighted pro-life advocates monitoring the stem cell situation.

"Although the research is still years away from treating humans, we continue to be encouraged at the steady advances Yamanaka’s work is making both in people’s understanding of ethical alternatives to ESC and in treating disease," Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, said in response.

Noted bioethics attorney and author Wesley J. Smith also applauded the progress.

"The ‘need’ for therapeutic cloning is becoming an increasingly difficult argument to make," he said. "We may be getting to the place where a ban on all human cloning will be politically viable."