Adult Stem Cell Awareness

November 21, 2007

Dr. Dan comments: “Welcome aboard!”

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Dr. Dan has been on the road and promised to report back about all the exciting cloning and stem cell buzz in the news. Below is his commentary. In addition, I believe the article he refers to from Do No Harm is this one.

“The Rest of the Story” 

 Before I had the opportunity to respond to the onslaught of requests for clarification and/or significance of the latest research findings by two independent labs that adult skin cells can now be “transformed” into embryonic-like stem cells (iPSC’s), multiple articles have appeared which essentially ‘beat me to the punch’.  One such article which does an excellent job of clarifying and describing the significance of this major development can be found at StemCellResearch.org.  However, I feel that there are some less than obvious ‘undertones’ which have yet to be addressed.

First, let’s give credit where credit is due.  As a consequence of President Bush’s policies on stem cell research (i.e. no federal funding for the creation and destruction of human embryos, vetoing legislation aimed at such, and his strong support for the funding of research to find alternative sources for pleuripotent stem cells), this major milestone of creating embryonic-like stem cells without destroying human embryos has been realized sooner than most stem cell researchers on either side of the debate ever believed.  One must wonder if this major scientific accomplishment would have ever happened if President Bush had succumbed to the pressures from biotechnology, the uninformed liberal media, misguided celebrities, and that select group of disingenuous politicians. 

Second, I find it interesting that many embryonic stem cell scientists, as well as the liberal media, feel duty-bound to point out some of the undesirable possibilities which may (or may not) arise in the procedure of reprogramming  adult somatic cells.  They are so quick to warn the public of the possibility that the retroviruses used to ‘introduce’ four genes into the skin cells that results in the reprogramming may cause genetic mutations.  “Whoa!  Hold the horses.”  Where have these truthsayers been hiding?  To my recollection, genetic mutations, as well as rejection, production of wrong cell types, and formation of cancerous tumors, have plagued embryonic stem cell research from the very beginning.  Why did they not feel compelled to fully inform the public then but do so now?  As for the unwanted side effects possible in reprogramming, it is believed by many associated with the research, as well as many not, that these obstacles can be overcome, if not eliminated altogether.

Finally, I can’t help but take notice of the multitude of once ‘die-hard’ embryonic stem cell researchers who have begun to pack their bags and are looking to jump onto the adult stem cell train.  Dr. Thomson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, who is credited with creating the first human stem cell lines in 1998 reports “By any means we test them (iPSC’s), they are the same as embryonic stem cells.”  Dr. Melton, a strong advocate for embryonic stem cell research, says in reference to this latest finding, “Anyone who is going to suggest that this is just a side show and that it won’t work is wrong.”  He goes on to state that the retroviruses that have the propensity to cause genetic mutations can, and will, be eliminated from the procedure of reprogramming adult cells.  Edinburgh University’s Dr. Ian Wilmut, the “creator” of Dolly, the cloned sheep, has been quoted as saying that he is abandoning his human cloning efforts and adopting the new approach (reprogramming of adult cells), not so much for ethical but rather practical considerations.  Dr. Robert Lanza, whose biotech company Advanced Cell Technology has been trying to create a human clone in order to extract embryonic stem cells said “This work represents a tremendous scientific milestone-the biological equivalent of the Wright brothers’ first airplane.”  Dr. Irving Weissman, one of the foremost names associated with embryonic stem cell research, proclaims “From the point of view of moving biomedicine and regenerative medicine faster, this is about as big a deal as you can imagine.”  David Scadden, an embryonic stem cell researcher at Harvard Medical School, said that this scientific accomplishment of reprogramming with simple biochemical techniques “is truly extraordinary and frankly something most assumed would take a decade to work out.”  Because of the simplicity of the procedure, it can be performed in even the smallest of labs, thereby involving many more scientists in perfecting it so as to be applied to patients sooner. 

All that I say is “Welcome aboard!”  If only we would have had these brilliant minds working with us from the very start, this major break through, which holds unlimited potential in regenerative medicine and for a greater understanding of the causes of serious diseases and disorders such as Alzheimers, may have been realized years ago.  “Maybe we can all now reach agreement on what has been an all-too-decisive issue and advance this promising research through the power of federal funding,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.  In other words, it now appears that both sides of the stem cell debate have found common ground which will ultimately allow us to funnel our resources, both financial and scientific, into research that offers real, not mythological, hope for the sick and disabled…..research that we can all live with.        

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1 Comment »

  1. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

    Comment by Idetrorce — December 15, 2007 @ 10:32 pm | Reply


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