Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Biotech Science

Skin Cells Turned Embryonic 261

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the awaiting-new-objections dept.
anik315 writes "Nature is reporting a major breakthrough in embryonic stem cell research. A straightforward procedure using mouse fibroblasts harvested from the skin can be used to produce pluripotent stem cells that can potentially become any other cell in the body. Not only can Yamanaka's method use the most basic cells, it can be accomplished with simple lab techniques. Possible applications of this breakthrough are to check molecular changes in cells as certain conditions develop. Stem cells produced using this procedure, however, can not be used safely to make genetically matched cells for transplant."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Skin Cells Turned Embryonic

Comments Filter:
  • Next step: Embryos (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:20PM (#19417491)

    A straightforward procedure using mouse fibroblasts harvested from the skin can be used to produce pluripotent stem cells...

    Just a few more years and it should be possible to cause fibroblasts to grow into embryos. IRC, it's more or less possible now but it involves mixing and matching parts of different cells (the nucleus from the fibroblast and the cytoplasm from a fertilized egg cell.

    Anyway, that should throw the anti-abortion crowd for a loop: "Oh no, he's cut his skin. He's killing babies!" After all, the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human even before it develops into a human.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:23PM (#19417527)

      "Oh no, he's cut his skin. He's killing babies!"

      and yet another demographic will hate emo kids.

    • by wall0159 (881759)
      "the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human..."

      really? I thought most of the disagreement was over when an embryo/foetus can be considered human.
      (yes there are a few extremists who provide a convenient straw-man)

      I'm pro-choice, btw.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        I imagine the natural process of conception would be what they are concerned with.

        To date, even in a test tube they are creating life by conception (introducing sperm into an egg for fertilization). If they skipped that part, I think is would be considered synthetic similar to how soy-burgers are supposed to be non meat hamburgers or nylon compared to silk.

        I think the real problem is going to be when the scientist create a conscious life out of skin cells. Or at least attempts to. And there is probably goin
    • by Bluesman (104513)
      "After all, the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human even before it develops into a human."

      I think the pro-lifers might have something to say about the human-intervention aspect. Namely, that something that could develop into a human being given nine months of waiting is fundamentally different than a cell used as an ingredient in a laboratory process to create embryos.

      The Catholic church, for example, firmly opposes abortion but does not s
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        Heh, those anti abortion people aren't as stupid as they are portrayed. And this is something that always confused me. Why someone who thinks they are protecting a human life automatically be considered stupid in this one position?
        • by buswolley (591500) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:31PM (#19418187) Journal
          Thank you. Indeed, I do see the strengths of pro-abortion supporters, however the pro-life argument is not as weak as it is made out to be.

          Besides, a moderate approach would be to acknowledge that the issue is unclear, or unsolvable, and that it is probably best to error on the side of caution. Even better would be to fund the research of technologies and legislation which can make these issues less relevant.

          For example, let's develop several pre-conception birth control methods which are highly effective. Then require their use in-order to have the privilege of having an abortion. --Like insurance for your car. Responsibility allows the privilege. Plus make this freely available and highly accessible to people of child baring age.

          Advantages:

          1. Reduces unwanted pregnancies.

          2. Reduces abortions.

          3. Re-frames the debate into a more moderate direction, so as to divide our country less.

          4. Makes the whole issue less pressing.

          Thank you for your feedback

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Like insurance for your car.

            heh, more like insurance for the garage.
          • by buswolley (591500)

            child baring age.

            Crap. Here comes all the "baring" Jokes.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by david.given (6740)

            For example, let's develop several pre-conception birth control methods which are highly effective. Then require their use in-order to have the privilege of having an abortion. --Like insurance for your car. Responsibility allows the privilege.

            The problem with this approach is that you're punishing the children. You're rewarding being responsible by allowing responsible people to have children, and punishing the being irresponsible by forcing them to go through with their pregnancies --- in other words, y

            • by buswolley (591500)
              This is why making the birth control very accessible and free to everyone is essential. Put it into the high schools, etc.
              • How do you verify that someone has been taking their birth control?

                How do you prevent people who are not eligible to have abortions because they wern't 'responsible' from having abortions anyway?
                • by buswolley (591500)
                  Welfare agencies do it RIGHT NOW. They don't give more aid for children who are conceived while on welfare unless you have proof from a doctor of being on the birth control.

                  Most of these birth control methods require a doctor to "install." So there is a record of it available. As for your second objection: Require the same proof that the welfare office does. A record from your doctor.

                • by buswolley (591500)
                  The pill wouldn't qualify: The chance for error is too great, and documentation too difficult.
            • by buswolley (591500)
              yet, in absolute numbers, it is less a problem than we have today.
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              So are you saying that killing an unborn child is more humane then forcing them to go though life with incompetent parents who couldn't figure out how babies were made and take steps that are readily available to stop it?

              Really, I'm not one of those people who are against abortion because of religious reasons. I just find it extremely offensive that abortion is birth control and the idea behind pushing it is because the parents are idiots. It won't be my decision if an abortion happens, so I cannot really s
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by raehl (609729)
            Besides, a moderate approach would be to acknowledge that the issue is unclear, or unsolvable

            That would be a moderate approach.

            an ... approach would be to acknowledge that the issue is unclear, or unsolvable, and that it is probably best to error on the side of caution.

            This is not a moderate approach. If caution is 'towards killing babies', this is a pro-life approach. If caution is 'towards government invasion of a woman's control of her own body', then it's a pro-choice approach.

            Either way, it's the sam
            • by sumdumass (711423)

              This is not a moderate approach. If caution is 'towards killing babies', this is a pro-life approach. If caution is 'towards government invasion of a woman's control of her own body', then it's a pro-choice approach.9 months after conception it becomes a humane approach instead of a pro-life one.

              And no one is arguing for the government to take control of a womans body away. they are saying you need to make those decision of that control before the pregnancy. IT isn't as if the government is saying you mus

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bogjobber (880402)

            5. Creates a registry of not only who's having sex, but who is using birth control. No privacy concerns there.

            6. Still requires the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

            Sorry, try again. I, for one, would certainly not consider your proposal moderate. Drastically reducing the amount of freedom women have right now in order to placate a relatively small percentage of the population does not strike me as moderate. "A Modest Proposal" maybe, but definitely not moderate.

          • For example, let's develop several pre-conception birth control methods which are highly effective.

            But this would not satisfy everybody. The Catholic Church believes that anything that disrupts the natural method of conception is wrong. Hence, anything but abstaining or the rhythm method is morally wrong. Even a vasectomy is wrong in the eyes of the Church and many others.

            That said, I seem to know a lot of church-going Catholic men (guys who contribute a lot to the church and parochial school, vote pro-l
          • by ppanon (16583)
            Of course the very people who you would think would support this, the anti-abortionists, are religious fundamentalists who will decry this solution by claiming you are encouraging promiscuity. The only thing that will make them happy are promises of abstention from sex and chastity belts.

            Of course to be fair, the men should have to wear chastity belts too...
            • by sumdumass (711423)
              Don't make the mistake of grouping all pro lifers all into the same group. This is probably the biggest reason your confused about who would support something or why they are supporting it.

              I am not religious. I play devils advocate and usually pick the side getting pounded the worst. BUT I am against abortion as a form of birth control. This means I am against more then 90% of all abortions performed every year. It doesn't mean I am against birth control though.

              And the problem with teaching birth control is
              • by Grendel Drago (41496) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @09:50AM (#19422829) Homepage

                Don't make the mistake of grouping all pro lifers all into the same group. This is probably the biggest reason your confused about who would support something or why they are supporting it.
                Yeah, but pro-lifers not in the religious group don't really count in a political sense, which means that whatever your nuanced policy measures are which aren't predicated on punishing women for being dirty sluts, nobody's going to bother responding to them.

                Then again, your wailing about "encourag[ing] promiscuity" and how those damned sluts deserve to be punished with unwanted pregnancies because, well, they were asking for it, what with the having sex and all, leads me to believe that your motives may not be that different.
          • by eMbry00s (952989)
            Condoms and education on how to use them work pretty well. (Check out in 1980 when this education was made mandatory for every marrying couple in Iran: http://tinyurl.com/27nepb [tinyurl.com] - just drag the bottom slider to the right to see progress over time, height indicates number of children born per woman.)

            I would also like to note that you are not taking rape into account. (Check http://www.rainn.org/statistics/index.html [rainn.org] for stats.)

            Now, I don't feel like getting into an argument since this all boils down to moral
      • by zobier (585066)

        The Catholic church, for example, firmly opposes abortion but does not support continuation of any life through "extraordinary" means, to include most life-support systems.
        Um, how does Jesus waiving his magic wand over a dead dude not constitute "extraordinary" means.
    • by JeanPaulBob (585149) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:48PM (#19417743)
      After all, the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human even before it develops into a human.

      Ah, no.

      The argument is that it can develop into a baby, and that it already is a human.

      I.e., an oak acorn is not a tree, but it is an oak. An blastocyst/embryo is not a baby, but it is a human. A baby is not a toddler, but it is a human. A toddler is not a teenager, but it is a human. A teenager is not an adult, but it is a human (though barely, in come cases ^_^).
      • it can develop into a baby, and that it already is a human

        I thought it was a cat. No?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        A fetus may be human, but it is not a person. I would argue that a baby shouldn't be considered to be a person until its behaviour differentiates itself from animals.

        • Hmm that brings up the question of what differentiates us from animals.... most non-religious aka non-pro-life also believe in very strict evolution in that there is no soul, no specific thing that separates us from 'animals'... only biological and chemical differences that we arbitrarily liken as 'human' or non-animal qualities.

          A fetus has all the DNA of a homo-sapien and therefore given time to develop, will become a homo-sapien. It's DNA is what differentiates it from an animal, not an environmentally su
          • May I suggest that you check the fundamental definition of 'animal'... the most basic definition (animant) includes anything capable of moving on its own so humans are simply another kind of animal. Human DNA does not really mysteriously/intrinsically separate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom, what does is our unmatched (at least among Earth's creatures) ability to learn and our unique ability to work with abstractions.

            Morals, religions, education, etc. are the only things that truly sets humanity
          • It's DNA is what differentiates it from an animal, not an environmentally supplied set of behaviors.

            We all shed millions of skin cells every day that have homo-sapiens (not a plural) DNA in them. According to your view, those skin cells are people. Do you regard it as a crime to vacuum them up?

            and I could argue that you are obviously not as competent as a 'person/human' in today's society should be.

            I have a Ph.D. and a genius-level IQ. My ability to think rationally is not limited; perhaps yours is. A

        • A fetus may be human, but it is not a person. I would argue that a baby shouldn't be considered to be a person until its behaviour differentiates itself from animals.

          Ah, so you go down the route of Peter Singer. (Well, that aspect of his views, anyway.)

          While I think your view is as repugnant and vile as every historical denial of any group of human beings' personhood, I would say that it's a more rationally-defensible position than saying that personhood starts at birth.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, no. Stem cells don't develop into babies if they're just out there. Stem cells forming an embryo can turn into a baby. If what you said were true, then amphibians that can regenerate limbs would be able to reproduce asexually, by cuttings. Anyway, that should throw the troll crowd for a loop.
    • After all, the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human even before it develops into a human.

      Well, no, that's a frequent characterization of the argument by people who themselves believe that an entity does not become human until it emerges from the womb and who fail to understand that not everyone shares that belief, and who therefore create a rationalization for their opponents arguments based on a premise that those opponents reject, and pret

    • by hcdejong (561314)
      After all, the usual argument is that if something can develop into a human then it should be considered to be a human even before it develops into a human.

      No, it's not. You don't see 'the anti-abortion crowd' arguing that sperm or unfertilized egg cells should be considered to be a human, either.
  • by Maniakes (216039) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:28PM (#19417573) Journal
    A straightforward procedure using mouse fibroblasts harvested from the skin can be used to produce pluripotent stem cells [...] Stem cells produced using this procedure, however, can not be use to safely to make genetically matched cells for transplant.

    I think I found the source of the problem.
  • Papers (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:31PM (#19417607)
    Actual papers for those interested (it was published simultaneously by three groups): (Nature probably requires subscriptions, the first one is free access)

    Nimet Maherali, Rupa Sridharan, Wei Xie, Jochen Utikal, Sarah Eminli, Katrin Arnold, Matthias Stadtfeld, Robin Yachechko, Jason Tchieu, Rudolf Jaenisch, Kathrin Plath, and Konrad Hochedlinger
    http://www.cellstemcell.com/content/article/fullte xt?uid=PIIS1934590907000203 [cellstemcell.com]

    Keisuke Okita, Tomoko Ichisaka & Shinya Yamanaka
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent /full/nature05934.html [nature.com]

    Marius Wernig, Alexander Meissner, Ruth Foreman, Tobias Brambrink, Manching Ku, Konrad Hochedlinger, Bradley E. Bernstein & Rudolf Jaenisch
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent /full/nature05944.html [nature.com]
  • Who needs high tech when your skin cells can turn you into a bionic person. I just can't wait for the IPO!
  • ... when I hear it's been replicated at a few dozen labs.
  • by Bryan Ischo (893) * on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:51PM (#19417775) Homepage
    Why are they running these experiments on mouse cells? Why aren't they starting with human skin cells and developing their techniques there? It would avoid the secondary step of having to transfer the technique from mouse tissue to human tissue.

    I always assumed that the reason that experiments are done on mice and other animals is that they are easier to obtain than human subjects and that we can do things to them that would be considered unethical when done to a human (leaving aside some people's feelings that they are unethical when done to animals too).

    But with skin cell experiments, I don't see the reason to do the research on animals. Human skin cells ought to be readily available, ethical to obtain, and ethical to experiment on.

    Why start with mice on this? Why not start with humans and cut one step out of the process?
    • My guess is that these are not just any mice they are using, but "lab grade" mice, whose "properties" are well understood. I am not a biologist, so if someone could help explain this better, please jump in. But basically the mice need to be well characterized so you have some notion of a control when comparing results. That is much more difficult to accomplish with humans.
      • Exactly. Lab mice have been inbred to near-clone status.
        Which means once you've done an experiment on your mice, you can call up another lab five states over and tell them what you did, and they'll be able to reproduce it.
        Humans are a bit more variable.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Here's what happens when the ask for volunteers:

      Scientist: Can we 'ave your skin, then?
      Subject: Sod off you plonker!

      Mice don't tend to respond that way. Well they do, but we don't have to listen to mice.

    • Why not start with human cells, thus saving the effort of transferring the techniques later?

      A bit like saying why deploy changes onto a test system instead of straight onto the live system - after all, you'll only have to migrate to live later?

      There are too many things that could go wrong - I'm not a molecular biologist, but I guess it's possible that if cells are persuaded to change their pattern of development (by switching on/off certain areas of the DNA, in a process that is not fully understood)

    • by tyler_larson (558763) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:52PM (#19418359) Homepage

      Why are they running these experiments on mouse cells? Why aren't they starting with human skin cells and developing their techniques there? It would avoid the secondary step of having to transfer the technique from mouse tissue to human tissue.

      Simplicity. Protocol. Reproducibility.

      Labs that experiment on mice use specific inbred genetic lines that are widely available with limited genetic diversity. This limits the amount of experimental error that can be attributed to the variations in the traits of the animals. It also means that other labs attempting to reproduce the same results will have a greater chance of success because they'll be starting with an organism that genetically is nearly identical to the ones used elsewhere.

      See Model Organism [wikipedia.org].

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mark-t (151149)
      Because then they could be left with an ethical quandry about what to do with any unexpected human embryos that might be produced from the experiments.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:01PM (#19417893) Homepage Journal
    "The four transcription factors used by Yamanaka reprogramme cells inconsistently and inefficiently, so that less than 0.1% of the million cells in a simple skin biopsy will be fully reprogrammed."

    As noted, the major problem is not just the inconsistency, but the locating of the modified cells.

    However, unlike many other slashdot articles, this is is in a peer-reviewed journal, it is based on a technique which has been run for a while and altered based upon other followup work, and it might prove a useful addition for labs to do research, while of limited use in therapeutics.

    But that also depends on cost. People forget that a successful research lab has got to get costs per experiment down - if it costs me $20 per sample and I have a plate of samples, I'll go broke trying to run any sizeable research of any note, especially that with significant data that can answer more than 2 basic questions of statistical significance.
  • Cells in salamanders can de-differentiate. That's how they can re-grow arms.

    When studied, it was discovered that very low level DC currents were measured throughout the body and at the wound area on tested salamander. Later tests determined that artificially stimulating the cells with DC current triggered the cells to de-differentiate.

    Interesting!

    Even more interesting, the cells of more complex organisms, (humans), also react to low level DC current, and in fact, naturally occurring DC current plays a rol
  • I thought this article was going to be about Sepultura and their song "Dead Embryonic Cells" being some sort of inspiration for science. Maybe it was, the scientists just didn't want to cop to it.
  • Now all we need is a bunch of over-religious nutters telling me that the skin on my ass is a child that hasn't been born, yet is entitled to all the rights of an individual.....

    Maybe I'll even get to use the "Stem cells are people MY ASS!" line, and actually be correct on BOTH sides of the issue at the same time!

<< WAIT >>

Working...