Research reported this week by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice. The race is now on to apply the surprisingly straightforward procedure to human cells.
If researchers succeed, it will make it relatively easy to produce cells that seem indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells, and that are genetically matched to individual patients. There are limits to how useful and safe these would be for therapeutic use in the near term, but they should quickly prove a boon in the lab.
How amazing is that?? I’m telling you, these stem cells are really something to marvel at. There is still a lot of research to be done to get this to work with human cells, but imagine what this could mean for the future of cloning and ESC research if it does work. Patients could be treated with their own genetically matched ‘ESCs’ without the messy business of having to clone themselves first.
In summary, expect rapid progress in adult stem cells and slower, less intense work with embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cell technology is already looking rather last-century, along with therapeutic cloning. History will show that by 2020 we were already able to produce a wide range of tissues using adult stem cells, with spectacular progress in tissue building and repair. In some cases these stem cells will be actually incorporated into the new repairs as differentiated cells, in other cases, they will be temporary assistants in local repair processes…
And along the way we will see a number of biotech companies fold, as a result of over-investment into embryonic stem cells, plus angst over ethics and image, without watching the radar screen closely enough, failing to see the onward march of adult stem cell technology.
Using embryos as a source of spare-part cells will always be far more controversial than using adult tissue, or perhaps cells from umbilical cord after birth, and investors will wish to reduce unnecessary risk, both to the projects they fund, and to their own organisations by association.
Do you think he’s right? With stories like this one it seems he’s on to something.
The US House defeated the deceptive cloning ban