Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cell Research Conducted Without Embryos

Could the fight against federally funded stem cell research be over?

Researchers have transformed ordinary human skin cells into batches of cells that look and act like embryonic stem cells -- but without using cloning technology and without making embryos.

"We can now envisage a time when a simple approach can be used to produce stem cells that are able to form any tissue from a small sample taken from any of us," said Ian Wilmut of the University of Edinburgh, who helped clone the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, in 1997.
Wait a minute. Isn't that the sheep that died after only six years of being alive? Do we want to clone tissues that are only going to fail anyways? Actually, it turns out that she didn't die of "clone" complications at all, but Ovine Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma.

In any case, this seems like it could be a healthy, ethically impartial way of going about tissue and organ replacements for patients diagnosed with many of the world's worst irreversible diseases and cancers. It looks like it will be politically palatable as well:
The White House immediately welcomed the development, given President George W. Bush's long opposition to embryo research, even as scientists said the finding should not be the end of such research.
Don't get too excited though, it may be a little ways off before we can really harvest the full benefits of this development:
The researchers agree it will be years before the technique could be used to treat people. More immediately, they say it can be used to study diseases and to screen drugs.

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