Researchers Make More Stunning Advances With Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 28, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Researchers Make More Stunning Advances With Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 28
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — Scientists continue to make more stunning advances with direct reprogramming — an embryonic stem cell research alternative that pro-life advocates hail as moral and ethical.

Harvard scientists previously report they have transformed one type of adult cell directly into another adult cell type, producing the specialized pancreatic beta-cells that secrete insulin.

Now, other scientists have advanced that concept.

In what some have called a "groundbreaking advance," three genes were added to pancreatic cells within living mice, and this was enough to directly change the cells into insulin-secreting cells.

The research team, also led by Dr. Michael Murphy of the Indiana University School of Medicine, restored blood circulation and limb function in mice treated with these cells, which could potentially be used as an off-the-shelf treatment for damaged or diseased limbs.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University and now a Family Research Council fellow, talked with about the success.

"Though similar to the reprogramming technique developed by Yamanaka of Japan, this new application eliminates the need to form embryonic type stem cells," he said.

Doug Melton of Harvard reported on the experiments back in June, but this is the first peer-reviewed publication of the results, online in the journal Nature.

"Harvard researchers had previously reported production of disease-specific cell lines using the Yamanaka technique. But embryonic types of stem cells continue to show problems forming mature, functional cells, as well as their tendency to form tumors," prentice explained. "Melton has worked for years trying to make insulin-secreting cells from embryonic stem cells."

So, for the pro-life community, what is the good news in this report?

Prentice says: "This new technique directly turns one type of fully formed adult cell into another type of adult cell, eliminating the problematic step back to embryonic stem cells. It also completely bypasses any need for using embryos or cloning for research."

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council also reports some other good news on the adult stem cell research front.

"In case you missed it, Maarten van der Weijden won the open-water race Olympic gold medal. His life was saved years ago by an adult stem cell transplant for leukemia, one of thousands of lives saved by adult stem cells."


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