Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative Has Another Advance, IPS Cells Yield Nerve Cells

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 25, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Embryonic Stem Cell Alternative Has Another Advance, IPS Cells Yield Nerve Cells

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 25
, 2009

Los Angeles, CA (LifeNews.com) — One of the alternatives to the use of embryonic stem cells has made another advance and, this time, induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, have yielded nerve cells. Researchers made a type of nerve cells from the iPS cells, which are embryonic-like cells reverted from their adult state.

The cells are hailed by pro-life groups as an ethical alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells, which can only be obtained by destroying human life.

A team at the University of California Los Angeles was able to make motor neurons out of the induced pluripotent stem cells and the scientists hope to make cells tailored to specific diseases for therapy.

BY converting the iPS cells into motor neurone cells, scientists may be able to better treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

"IPS-derived cells appeared to follow a normal developmental progression associated with motor neuron formation," they wrote in the journal Stem Cells.

The researchers added that the new cells they created look just like embryonic stem cells, yet they didn’t have to destroy days-old human embryos, or unique human beings, to get them.

The researchers at UCLA plan to attach the new cells to muscle cells to determine if they will contract and they hope to eventually be able to take a skin cell sample from a patient to generate a tissue transplant or build a stem cell bank for other patients.

Adult stem cells have also been helpful in dealing with ALS.

Last year, a unique pilot study established a safe pathway for using bone-marrow stem cells to slow down and potentially treat Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Dr. Neil Cashman, professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia and director of the ALS program at Vancouver Coastal Health and VCH Research Institute, headed the study.

He published the results in the medical journal Muscle & Nerve and he and his colleagues tested the use of a growth factor stimulant in ALS patients and found that bone-marrow stem cells became activated with no adverse effects to patients.

“Our idea was to use a growth factor stimulant to increase the number of circulating stem cells from within the body’s bone marrow where they would have the potential to travel to the site of injury and begin repair, slowing down the progression of ALS,” he said.

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