Ethical Creation of Embryonic Stem Cells Sees Another Breakthrough Advance

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 6, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Ethical Creation of Embryonic-Like Stem Cells Sees Another Breakthrough

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 6
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — While controversial embryonic stem cells continue to be plagued by the same problems, scientists announced a big proof of principle in research with iPS cells. Those are the adult stem cells that researchers have been able to convert to an embryonic state without the destruction of human life.

Professor Shinya Yamanaka of Japan, along with scientists in Wisconsin, came up with the original reversal method. It required a virus to genetically alter adult cells and had inherent safety concerns.

Now, scientists at Scripps Research Institute in California and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Germany have been able to use drugs instead of viruses to turn brain cells from an adult back into embryonic-like stem cells.

Dr. Sheng Ding says the results show the scientists are "on the way" to making the embryonic-like stem cells without genetic modification.

"This shows that we can make cell reprogramming technology much more practical than it has been," Ding told the London Telegraph. "These advances will bring us closer to the day when we can use these powerful cells to make any kind of human tissue that we need to help patients."

The success means treatments could be developed sooner from the cells because cancer virus cells are not involved in their creation.

Wesley Smith, a leading American bioethicist, commented on the news and said the success drives home the point that human cloning is not needed to advance stem cell science.

"If stem cells for drug testing and therapies are the goal, human cloning is indeed redundant and should be banned," he said. "But don’t hold your breath. In my view, stem cells were as much pretext as purpose behind the cloning drive. But at least now that will be exposed."

In February, Yamanaka announced his team found a way to grow the cells without inducing tumors.