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Biotech Science

'Plentiful' Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Found 489

Posted by Zonk
from the bumper-crop dept.
An anonymous reader writes "CNN reports that scientists at Harvard and Wake Forest have discovered a 'plentiful' non-embryonic source for stem cells, as well brain, liver, and bone cell types as well. The cells, found in amniotic fluid, can be harvested without harm to the donor or the donor's unborn child. While there's no proof that amniotic stem cells are as potent as embryonic stem cells, scientists are hopeful that this will be a huge step forward for the field of stem-cell research."
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'Plentiful' Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Found

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  • Still human ... ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gopal.V (532678) on Monday January 08, 2007 @05:45AM (#17505954) Homepage Journal

    From what I can gather, the basic issue that most religious folk have to do with stem cell research is that we're mucking around with human lives. Unless you can make this process look as simple as a cheek scraping for human cells (allergy research, for instance) the objections will not abate.

    The argument that this cell couldn't have become a baby doesn't quite hold good and has been answered before [slashdot.org] about harvesting eggs from fertility clinics.

    So are these cells are still human, but without a potential human, doomed to die when the aminotic fluid drains. Some facts which might not matter to those who have decided all of this to be Playing God.

    • by pdbaby (609052)

      It's a good point -- to the public it's all about the perception of the science, not the actual science. I suspect lots of people will see "stem cell" and react immediately. Hopefully lots of other people will be more reasonable.

      I don't think there's any way to make it look as harmless as a cheek scraping, though -- from my meagre understanding, there's still a risk involved with going into the amniotic sack - any medics able to comment further?

    • by khanyisa (595216) on Monday January 08, 2007 @06:43AM (#17506230)
      The objection is not that embryos are potentially people, is that they are people. This is not true about some cells harvested in such a way that it does not destroy a person (whether embryonic or adult).

      Whether you agree with the classification of embryos as people is what the debate should be about. See http://www.gerv.net/writings/foetal-personhood/ [gerv.net] for some pointers
    • I'm sorry, but the idea that embryonic stem cells could have become a baby is precisely the objection that most of the people who object to ESC research have. That someone figured out that embryos aren't humans on a Slashdot discussion is of no concern to faith-based folks like George W. Amniotic stem cells can't become a baby, so no one cares. Amniocentecis isn't quite as easy as scraping a cheek, but it's probably as close as we're likely to get with stem cells.

      "Clearly human" cells die every sing
      • by ArcherB (796902) * on Monday January 08, 2007 @10:09AM (#17507624) Journal
        I'm sorry, but the idea that embryonic stem cells could have become a baby is precisely the objection that most of the people who object to ESC research have.

        I'm afraid I have to disagree here. The problem is not with stem cell research, or even the fact that it is possible to manipulate a stem cell into becoming a human being, but how you got the cell in the first place.

        I fully support stem cell research. I think it is a sin not to. The only problem people like me have with embryonic stem cell research is not the research at all, but the production of the stem cells to begin with. In order to harvest embryonic stem cells (as my feeble mind understands it), an embryo must be coaxed to divide and start to grow. At a certain point, it has to be destroyed to harvest the stem cells. It's that destruction of a growing embryo that is the problem. People like me equate that to an abortion, but it's no longer about women's choice, but experimentation and profit.

        Now we can get into a ton of philosophical debates as to when life begins and when an embryo becomes human and such, but this debate goes into so many different directions. If we agree not to harvest embryos for stem cells because they are human, then they must be human when considering an abortion. If an embryo is not human, then why the rub about abortion? This is another reason why the debate gets so heated. There is more at stake than just stem cells.

        Most people want embryonic stem cells for one or a combination of three reasons:
        1) Bush said not to and it pisses off fundies (these tend to go together)
        2) It legally reaffirms that embryos are not human, and thus abortion remains legal
        3) They want to stop the suffering humans with diseases that stem cell research promises to cure, and they don't know that stem cells can come from other sources.

        This is why other sources must be found. It's not because anyone is right or wrong, but because neither side will ever give up. Will it get to the point where fundies are blowing up research labs and feminists are performing stem cell harvesting with coat hangers? Doubtful, but why have the debate at all when there are other means of harvesting stem cells than to kill a growing embryo? We really can have our cake and eat it too!

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by caseydk (203763)
          "3) They want to stop the suffering humans with diseases that stem cell research promises to cure, and they don't know that stem cells can come from other sources."

          I think this is where it gets pretty dirty... having Michael J Fox and John Edwards (referencing Christopher Reeve) that "cures" are on the way when - to the best of my knowledge and research - *adult* stem cells are the only ones which have actually demonstrated anything useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ingolfke (515826)
      From what I can gather, the basic issue that most religious folk have to do with stem cell research is that we're mucking around with human lives.

      You're wrong on two counts. 1) The primary concern was that extracting the stem cells would destroy the embryo, not "Playing God". 2) You're also wrong to use the "religious folk" label. People who are non-religious also found that destroying human embryo's for research purposes was a concern. People who were religious argued for the research. Using statement
    • The argument to preserve "potential persons" is completely bogus as it enforces an entirely arbitrary dividing line. I can prove this as follows.

      Seeing that I am fertile, when I walk into a room with a fertile woman there in lies the potential for a human being.
      Just as easily as you can argue that the embryo should be preserved, I can argue that you must let me mate with the woman.

      There is no end to this. The argument can be moved further and further from actual human life.

      Pointing to the embryo and saying
      • There must be a reason to place the dividing line in a certain spot, and that reason must be based on knowledge and not belief.

        Like, I don't know, when a cell with completely unique, diploid genome is created? A cell completely different from gametes that were its origin, yet geneticaly identical (modulo non-lethal mutations) with all cells that will exist in the body of a person which will grow from this one cell?

        If we are to establish the dividing line based on knowledge then the conception is the only vi

    • by Dausha (546002)
      I recently sat in on a discussion with a bio-ethicist professor on the issue of embryonic stem cells. His thesis was that, since we have a legally defined point at which we declare somebody dead, that we must also have a point where we declare a person alive. His conclusion was that before 'x' number of days (I forget the exact number, but it is around 14 so I will use that throughout my post), that we should not consider the embryo alive. From this conclusion, he asserted that the bests interests of societ
  • Are these new stems cells viable and useful now?
    After I RTFA, the answer is no.

    "However, the scientists noted they still don't know exactly how many different cell types can be made from the stem cells found in amniotic fluid. They also said that even preliminary tests in patients are years away."

    Or we can keep putting money into embryonic stem cells which have already resulted in _proven therapies that work_
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by will_die (586523)
      embryonic stem cells which have already resulted in _proven therapies that work_
      And thoses would be???? Please name two, here I will make it easy name one.

      Since the original poster will never be back the list of proven embryonic stem cell therapies is none. The truth about embryonic stem cell was that since it contained a large amount of possibilities venture capitalists invest huge amounts of money and have shown no possible pay back any time soon, so they started pushing to have the government put
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by savorymedia (938523)
      Or we can keep putting money into embryonic stem cells which have already resulted in _proven therapies that work_
      Really? Do you have links? The only proven results I've seen have been from ADULT stem cells...although I'll admit that I haven't kept up with the most recent results.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Monday January 08, 2007 @06:43AM (#17506222)
    To the pro-stem cell researchers:

    Would you allow your pregnant daughter to go through this procedure of donating amniotic fluid?

    To the anti-stem cell people:

    Would you allow your daughter, who suffers from a debilitating, ultimately fatal disease, to undergo curative treatment derived from stem cell research?

    Sorry, people, but I'm in the 99.9% of people who DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE ON THIS SUBJECT to be able to make an informed judgment yet on what is right and what is wrong here who is also prepared to ADMIT IT.

    Nothing to see here...

    • Would you allow your pregnant daughter to go through this procedure of donating amniotic fluid? Absolutely, if she wants to (because she's the person who should be doing the deciding, anyway). Amniocentecis is a routine procedure, a friend of mine had one done just the other week. The OB/GYN department likely performs several every day. Besides, it's unlikely that it'll do her any good after she gives birth anyway, it'll probably just be soaked up and tossed in the medical waste bin.
    • by Ingolfke (515826)
      Would you allow your daughter, who suffers from a debilitating, ultimately fatal disease, to undergo curative treatment derived from stem cell research?

      Treatment derived from stem cells isn't the issue... that's why the debate has been about using different types of stem cells and whether or not they could be used as successfully in research.

      Here's a question...

      Would you allow your daughter, who suffers from a debilitating, and hideously painful, ultimately fatal disease, to undergo curative treatment deriv
    • by aussie_a (778472) on Monday January 08, 2007 @07:48AM (#17506570) Journal

      Would you allow your pregnant daughter to go through this procedure of donating amniotic fluid?
      Sure but then I'd be having a serious talk with this daughter and find out why and how she got pregnant at 7 years of age, the oldest possible age she could be, and then I'd talk with the mother to find out why I was never told I had a daughter.
    • by halivar (535827)
      Would you allow your daughter, who suffers from a debilitating, ultimately fatal disease, to undergo curative treatment derived from stem cell research?

      Yes, because there is a well-nigh 100% certainty that cure came form adult stem-cell research, not embryonic. So far the only actual cures provided by stem-cell research are from adult stem-cells. Note that this is not because embryonic stem-cell research is illegal or somehow hard to fund. America spends more money on embryonic stem-cell reasearch than anyw
  • Without harm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mikehunt (225807)
    Current statistics give a 1% risk of miscarriage
    after amniocentesis. Also, the amount of cells in
    the volume of fluid that would normally be collected
    is likely to be small.

    Sounds like no news to me.
  • Taking some amniotic fluid will probably cause a slight increase of the risk to the mother or the fetus. There's a very, very easy way around this: harvest stem cells only in the case of abortions. Whether from the fetus or the amniotic fluid, it's just going to be biowaste anyway.

    Regardless of your feelings on abortion, why should it bother anyone for stem cells to be retrieved from aborted fetuses? They are already going to be aborted, we just ought to get stem cells out of it so that we can help more
    • by Ingolfke (515826)
      harvest stem cells only in the case of abortions. Whether from the fetus or the amniotic fluid, it's just going to be biowaste anyway.

      Hell and considering how rare viable stem cells are I can see a great business opportunity hear... start baby farming. Get pregnant, abort the little bastard, and get paid for the stem cells. Hells yes... where's my ho.
      • As long as the doctors keep all the money from the stem cells (as if it would be any other way), there will be no new incentive for women to get pregnant, and those same doctors already have a financial incentive to increase the number of abortions, so it's not like any NEW ethical dilemmas are likely
  • woah boys and girls and other non-determined gender orientations... I'm afraid there is a small but significant risk of harm to the mother and/or the unborn child when you take samples of amniotic fluid... too risky? not my call... but there is a risk.
    • by smoker2 (750216)

      I'm afraid there is a small but significant risk of harm to the mother and/or the unborn child when you take samples of amniotic fluid... too risky? not my call... but there is a risk.

      Life is a risk.

      If women are already undergoing amniocentesis [netdoctor.co.uk], then the risk has already been taken, so why not get extra value from the resulting fluid ?

      I don't think anyone is suggesting that the fluid is harvested on industrial scales.

  • You Can Be Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Luscious868 (679143) on Monday January 08, 2007 @09:40AM (#17507284)
    Even if these new stem cells aren't as useful as embryonic stem cells you can be sure that right wing zealots will argue that they are. I just don't get the case against embryonic stem cell research provided that research is carried out on embryos that have been donated with informed consent and would otherwise be destroyed. I could sort of understand the argument if these embryos were going to be implanted and had a real chance to become a baby, but we're talking about embryos that are going to be destroyed. IMHO destroying embryos that could be used in research to try and cure a number of truly horrible diseases is the immoral course of action.
    • No opponent of embryonic stem cell research opposes the use of non-embryonic stem cells; most of us are happy to point to the many successful therapies that have been developed using other sources of stem cells.

      My objection to embryonic stem cell use is that it sets a scary precedent - I really don't want to live in a society that believes living beings - even non-viable, merely potential living beings, as a private property and a commercial resource.

      This is no different than my opposition to patenting huma
  • One big problem (Score:2, Informative)

    by moracity (925736)
    Drawing amniotic fluid is extremely risky to both mother and fetus. That is why amniocentesis is only done if absolutely necessary. My wife had one around 20 weeks gestation. Not only is the procedure extremely painful, she went through two weeks of uterine cramping. She had to take two weeks off work to recover.

    Poking a hole in the uterus of a pregnant woman is not something to take lightly. This article makes it seem like a trvial procedure, which is certainly is not.
    • Extremely risky? Its a 1% risk of miscarriage. Without having my judgment clouded by emotion, I can say that 1% is not extremely anything, except low.
  • by Jess (geek-chick) (896411) on Monday January 08, 2007 @10:26AM (#17507830) Homepage
    When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew from the start I wanted to donate the umbilical stem cells. It wasn't an easy search to find somewhere that would take them. All the advertising toward pregnant women are for banking the stem cells. They scare parents into thinking their child's stem cells could be used for a cure on the chance the child develops a disease. I think this is a horrible practice to do on parents, most of whom probably are just throwing their money away in the belief it could save their child.

    None of the hospitals in my state accept cord blood donations, nor are their any cord or blood banks here. I found only one cord bank that accepts donations from out of state (their name escapes me), and at no charge to my doctor, the hospital, or me. From what I've read, I know that the cord blood stem cells aren't able to be used like embryonic stem cells, but since they were just going to be destroyed anyway, why not donate them?
  • by foniksonik (573572) on Monday January 08, 2007 @12:08PM (#17509126) Homepage Journal

    The article on New Scientist [newscientist.com] clearly states that the amniotic stem cells can be taken from the placenta after delivery and placed in cryogenic storage and then replicated easily within 36 hours to become a plentiful source of these cells....

    So all the comments about the dangers of taking fluid during pregnancy are mis-informed based on the original link apparently... sounds like bias from cnn editors.

    This is a great new discovery and should certainly be explored fully before being discounted because it doesn't involved the destruction of embryos to accomplish new science.

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