Promising developments in adult stem cell research

Posted by: ST on June 6, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Via Yuval Levin at NRO:

The coming week’s issue of the scientific journal Nature, made available online today, includes several extraordinary new studies on an alternative avenue to embryonic-like stem cells that does not require the destruction of embryos. In the most important paper, scientists at MIT have chemically reprogrammed regular adult cells (like skin cells) in mice to function and appear like embryonic stem cells. They express their results with simplicity and confidence: “Our results establish that somatic cells [i.e. normal adult non-reproductive cells] can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent state that is similar, if not identical, to that of normal embryonic stem cells.” They note further, “our results show that the biological potency and epigenetic state of in-vitro-reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells are indistinguishable from those of embryonic stem cells”. In other words, adult cells into embryonic-like cells without the need for embryos.

This is one of three studies published today showing similar results with this technique. It’s all still in mice, and results like this always need to be confirmed and re-confirmed over time, but this is a very big deal, and anticipation of it has been generating huge buzz in the stem cell world for a while now. The quotes in this Nature news story give a sense of how scientists in the field are reacting.

Here’s more via the AP:

NEW YORK – In a big step toward a long-sought goal, three teams of scientists say they’ve produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells, at least in mice, without taking the controversial step of destroying embryos.

Their procedure makes ordinary skin cells behave like stem cells. If the same can be done with human cells — a big if — the procedure could lead to breakthrough medical treatments without the contentious ethical and political debates surrounding the use of embryos.

It’ll be interesting to see the reactions of the “embryonic stem cell research NOW!!!!!” crowd to this news. I mean, think about it: assuming that these tests are confirmed and re-confirmed, the embryonic stem cells the usual suspects so strongly claim that we “need” in order to create “vital cures” for people with diseases which are not yet cureable won’t be “needed.” And I say “needed” loosely because it’s the pro-embryonic stem cell research crowd who claims embryonic stem cells are “essential” to curing diseases like Parkinson’s, in spite of the fact that there has not been one shred of evidence to support the claim. All they have to go on is “hope” – nothing concrete. On the other hand, adult stem cell research continues to surprise and amaze us with the things we’re learning about it. This news is nothing short of awesome.

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  • 6 Responses to “Promising developments in adult stem cell research”


    1. Drewsmom says:

      We’ll never once hear this in the msm. Wanna bet.:-w

    2. Severian says:

      C’mon Drewsmom, you know exactly how this will be presented in the MSM:

      “Despite the Bush administrations refusal to allow embryonic stem cell research, researchers today announced promising results in stem cell research.”

      First, bash Bush and Republicans, second, put out story without identifying that these are adult stem cells to give the impression this is ESC research. It’s the same paradigm they use for articles about political corruption, only identify the party of the perp if they are Republican.

    3. Leslie says:

      Well actually, the New York Times and the Washington Post devoted quite a bit of attention to the story.

      They also had quotes from conservative spokespeople who found this promising.


    4. Severian says:

      I think the only reason the NYT covered it at all is that it allowed them to push things like the JFK terrorist plot further back into the newspaper away from the front page. :-w

    5. Leslie says:

      Severian opineth:

      I think the only reason the NYT covered it at all is that it allowed them to push things like the JFK terrorist plot further back into the newspaper away from the front page. :-w

      Comment by Severian @ 6/7/2007 – 9:57 am


      “You might well think that, Sev, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”