Skins Cells May Take the Place of Embryonic Stem Cells

Posted by Admin on November 21, 2007
University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have succeeded in reprogramming skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells. This discovery may redefine the ongoing political and ethical controversy surrounding embryonic stem cell research. For ordinary embryonic stem cell research, this discovery offers a means of obtaining pluripotent cell lines from a non-embryonic source. For cloning research, it offers a means to make customized, pluripotent cell lines without having to create and immediate embryo of an adult person.

To harvest embryonic stem cells, researchers must retrieve critical cells from an embryo which leads to its destruction. This has been the source of opposition from right-to-life critics who cite moral and ethical objections. Additionally, some member's of the women's movement object to the use of stimulating drugs in women who agree to donate eggs for embryonic stem cell research.

The latest findings may render oppositional concerns moot, since research shows that introducing four genes into cells derived from skin cells, called human fibroblasts, has resulted in cells that essentially share all the features of embryonic stem cells -but without destroying embryos.

 Professor of law and bioethics, Alta Carro, believes, "It holds a great deal of promise for freeing this whole area of research from those two main sources of friction. Its going to fuel those who call for preferential federal funding only for non-embryonic stem cell research and it will certainly complicate any efforts to expand funding for embryonic stem cell research at the federal level." Researchers believe stem cells are the key to developing future treatments for brain damage, cancer, spinal cord injuries, heart damage, and blindness.

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