Thursday, June 07, 2007

Technique could eliminate need for embryonic cells

In a surprising advance that sidesteps the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient's cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.

The advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body's major tissues.

If the technique can be adapted to human cells, it would let scientists use a patient's skin cell to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient's immune system.


It "raises no serious moral problem, because it creates embryonic-like stem cells without creating, harming or destroying human lives at any stage," said Richard Doerflinger, a spokesman on stem cell issues for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In themselves, embryonic stem cells "have no moral status," and the bishops' objections to embryonic stem cell research rest solely on the fact that human embryos must be harmed or destroyed to obtain them, he said.


This seems to be a very positive development, but I suspect that embryos will continued to be destroyed because there is an ample supply of them in IVF clinics.

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