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Medicine Science

Advance In Making Stem Cells From Skin 139

Posted by kdawson
from the we-don't-need-no-steenkin'-viruses dept.
KillerBob writes with an advance on the news from a year back that stem cells can be produced from human skin — discussed here. Now Canadian researchers have found a safe way to generate stem cells without using viruses to modify the genome, a process that can have its own dangers. "The ethical debate over embryonic stem cell use may soon be moot, thanks to a Canadian team of researchers who, together with a team out of Scotland, has found a safe way to grow stem cells from a patient's own skin. The revolutionary finding, described in a paper published yesterday by the international science journal Nature, means doctors may be one step closer to treating a multitude of diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's."
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Advance In Making Stem Cells From Skin

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  • by Bombula (670389) on Monday March 02, 2009 @09:56PM (#27047485)

    Advance In Making Stem Cells From Skin

    Don't get me wrong, I understand why this is cool. But I'd still much rather hear that there'd been a breakthrough in making skin from stem cells.

    • by aliquis (678370)

      I'm not trolling, just asking, because I haven't even thought about it:

      Isn't the idea that you more or less just inject the stem cells in the skin for example and they convert to skin cells?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drosboro (1046516)

        That would be the general idea, yes. But, unless I'm missing something, there's no actual clinical treatment for doing that for skin yet. If I am reading correctly, the only "production-ready" stem cell treatments are involving cancer (specifically leukemia and other blood-related cancers) - there's been some success at replenishing bone marrow after a round of chemo knocks out all of the existing marrow.

        • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot@@@pitabred...dyndns...org> on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:15PM (#27047865) Homepage
          You have to have the stem cells before you can move to using them for something. As they are, they're really expensive, rare, and possibly dangerous to make so they have to be screened very well. This new process makes experimentation and trials more likely. Gotta lay the foundation before you build the building.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Alinabi (464689)

            As they are, they're really expensive, rare, and possibly dangerous to make so they have to be screened very well.

            I don't see why they should be. The IVF facilities are full of discarded blastocysts waiting to be put to good use.

            • by Hungus (585181)

              That has to be one of the most heinous and disgusting statements I have ever seen.

              • You may find it distasteful, but that's the sad truth. There are a lot of blastocytes and similar such embryos that are simply slated for destruction anyways. They're simply no longer viable. As grim as it might be, SOMETHING should be made of them. While they're not a live, I can understand distaste from using something that could have been, but our only options are to dump it in the trash or put it to use in helping people's lives. And unless they can make skin stem cells act like the ungodly powerful ste
                • by Hungus (585181)

                  How very utilitarian of you. Please remember to sign your organ donation card and your euthanasia card so we may harvest any usable items from you when we deem you unfit for their use. oh and we will process your remains for dog food.

                  • Yeah. Sure, why not. Except here "deem unfit for use" is "They will not survive the womb. They cannot plant themselves." I know you like to think of embryos as magical always work things, but the fact of the matter is a lot of those embryos AREN'T going to ever work any more. You'd put them in the womb they'd just take time before withering. And I am trying to grab an organ donor card. Something besides this silly organ donor sticker.
                    • by Hungus (585181)

                      I know you like to think...

                      You seem to believe that you know me well, too bad you are completely wrong in your statement of what I think.

                      Except here "deem unfit for use" is "They will not survive the womb. They cannot plant themselves."

                      Nice of you to clarify your definitions of things. I hope you do not mind me taking your comment apart.

                      the fact of the matter is a lot of those embryos AREN'T going to ever work any more.

                      Actually unless you are a prophet or a time traveller that is simply a supposition on your part. Further, the value of an individual is based on their person-hood not their ability to work according to your standards. Your ethics appear Utilitarian and I will grant you the assumption of consiste

                    • by Hungus (585181)

                      Try reading my post again, as I deny the usefulness of teleology. Feel free to reply once you learn to read critically.

            • by Firethorn (177587)

              The idea here would be to use stem cells created from your own skin or other tissues; thus having identical genetics and avoiding rejection.

              Though for research purposes, yes, that would work. But regardless, it looks like the issue will be moot soon anyways.

               

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by CyberDong (137370)
          Diabetes/stem-cell research is still ongoing and in its early stages, but it is showing promise. As shown on the Mount Sinai Hospital news release [mountsinai.on.ca], the research was actually partly funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (United States) - so they must believe there's some promise there...
  • by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Monday March 02, 2009 @09:56PM (#27047487) Homepage

    We must move to ban all exfoliating soaps! Murder!!

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      In all seriousness, this argument is AS logical as the anti-abortionist argument (at least the one against early abortions). If it turns out we can get stem cells from skin, having a shower will be 'murder' on a much larger scale than abortion.

      • by Hungus (585181)

        Your definition of logic implies you have never actually studied logic. Remember that A->B != B->A

  • by dachshund (300733) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:03PM (#27047515)

    We see these stories about eight times a year. "New alternative to embryonic stem cells just around the corner". It's never clear how far around the corner it really is, though.

    In any case, I'm certain that sooner or later some brilliant soul will crack this code. I can't help but wonder, though: how much scientific effort has been displaced into "finding other ways to make stem cells" that could otherwise have gone into "finding ways to use stem cells to treat medical conditions".

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425)
      You have to remember one simple rule of thumb when you read these stories. Pretty much they'll always say "It's at least 10 years away" which is pretty much code for "I have no clue when this is coming." So the next time you read anything and you see "10 years" the guy is basically saying "I don't know."
    • by soren202 (1477905)
      That, or stem cells are like so many other things, and will never come to fruition. Seriously, I'd put self-replicating nano bots higher up on my feasibility list than actually finding non-controversial stem cells that actually help.
      • by neokushan (932374) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:21PM (#27047887)

        Just because something is controversial doesn't mean it's useless. I think you'll find that Science in general has a habit of being controversial (e.g. "Big Bang vs. God"), but that doesn't make the findings any less valuable or useful. Who knows what this research might lead into, it might be something really cool, it might be nothing, but there's a good chance that in future, OTHER research will be based upon it.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          I think you'll find that Science in general has a habit of being controversial (e.g. "Big Bang vs. God"), but that doesn't make the findings any less valuable or useful.

          I hate to correct you here, but the "Big Bang Theory" was a proposed by a Catholic Priest named Georges Lemaitre [wikipedia.org]. Lemaitre went counter to the then scientific consensus that the Universe was static, as was supported by Einstein's most recent theories. Lemaitre saw the Big Bang as proof that the universe had a beginning, or a creation, and thus a creator.

          My point is that there is no conflict between religion and science in respect to the Big Bang. However, in the case of embryonic stem cells, there is a c

        • by maxume (22995)

          How does evidence/theory of a big bang contradict something that is based entirely not on evidence (if there were evidence, religion could be a science...)?

          The controversy you are talking about stems from people rejecting empiricism, not from people embracing it.

        • Sorry, it was Big Bang vs Atheists. The strongest opposition to the Big Bang theory came from atheists, because if the Universe had a beginning that implies that it had a Creator. One of the philosophical ideas that led to the development of the scientific method is that everything that has a beginning has a cause.
          By that philosophy, if the Universe had a beginning, it must have had a cause. If the Universe had a cause it is very hard to dismiss the idea of God. By that philosophy God does not need a cause
    • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:27PM (#27047661) Journal
      Embryonic stem cells are not that useful for treatment, even though they are very useful for research. The advantage of stem cells is that they let you grow tissue that won't be rejected, since it's identical to that of the host. Embryonic stem cells aren't the same, and thus get rejected. Thus, adult stem cells are what we want for actual treatments. Embryonic cells are just easy to do research on, IE "finding ways to use stem cells to tread medical conditions." Once you know how to do it with the embryonic cells you can use the adult cells to actually implement the treatment.
      • by rahvin112 (446269) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:23PM (#27047895)

        Embryonic stem cells can have the nucleus removed and replaced with the hosts DNA thus creating an embryonic stem cell with the DNA markers of the patient. The delay in advancing Stem cell's is at least a decade now as without use of embryonic stem cells they haven't developed the techniques to properly use them even if they do find a way to make adult version stem cells without using embryonic material.

        The great fear of the abortion movement is that the public would become aware that the vast majority of embryonic material wouldn't be from abortion (where 95% of the material is mutilated tissue of little value) but the unused fertilized eggs contained in hundreds of thousands of fertility clinics around the country that are no longer needed by the parents that successfully produced children. Most importantly that these parents would then donate these unused fertilized eggs to curing diseases like Alzheimer and cancer, regrowing damaged organs or new skin for burn patients. It's ironic that the anti-abortion movement would rather see the eggs destroyed than used.

        • by TimSSG (1068536)
          So Big Pharma is right, the only major medical break though are done in the USA. Or, did other major countries bane the research, too? Tim S
          • by !coward (168942) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:59AM (#27048353)

            Um.. You DO realize that what you refer to as "Big Pharma" are multinational business corps with many research facilities spread throughout the globe, who make extensive use of grant programs to get Universities worldwide to do some of their legwork, and who basically have their hands in pretty much all the "pies". There aren't US "Big Pharma" corps, anymore than there are European "Big Pharma".. They boil down to just a handful of entities who directly own or control hundreds (if not more) of subsidiaries, and they're ALL global players.

            Yes, the fact that the previous US President banned research on (embryonic) stem cells did put a wrinkle on the worldwide research being done in the field.. On the one hand, the US market for drugs and medical treatments is too big to ignore, so there was less of an incentive to develop technologies, procedures and know-how on stuff that the big corps might not be able to deploy in such a profitable market (and thus reducing their perceived return on that investment). On the other hand, there are many great minds working in those fields in the US (both native and foreigners), often with ties to education institutions, and it wouldn't be so easy to uproot all those people just so they could send them somewhere where they could legally do/continue research.

            So, for the "Big Pharma" it just made sense to look into other venues of research, or for ways to bypass the ban by using other types of cells with which you could eventually get the same results. And in this regard, while I consider the ban to have been a huge mistake (especially the totally bogus reason for said ban), we haven't really lost anything because the other venues pursued would have to be done eventually anyway, all the better that it happened when the corps were so eager to get results that could translate into money.

            I don't know if there were (many) other countries following suit on the ban, but I do know that it was and still is a sensitive issue in many countries in Europe, so maybe in the end the money ended up drying in other places too.. But it hasn't been completely abandoned either, as I remember reading several studies published these last 8 years relating to research done on embryonic stem cells.

            Directly and indirectly, the US does have a BIG impact in the world in many areas (which is probably why so many of us follow what happens over there so closely -- and become so obnoxiously opinionated).. But don't think others wouldn't step forward to pick up the slack if you guys over there went the Amish way, either. :)

          • by theCoder (23772)

            As I understand it, the USA did not outright ban stem cell research. Instead, President Bush banned the use of federal funds in research involving embryonic stem cell lines created after a certain date. Research could still continue, just not with federal money. Now, maybe this effectively banned the research, and it probably slowed it down, but it wasn't like the research was against the law.

            I don't remember if President Obama is allowing federal funds to go to research with later stem cell lines.

        • by bigbird (40392) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @05:05AM (#27049197) Homepage

          It's ironic that the anti-abortion movement would rather see the eggs destroyed than used.

          The anti-abortion movement would rather not have unused fertilized eggs lying around in the first place to create such ethical dilemmas.

          And besides, using the fertilized eggs does destroy them.

        • by Rolgar (556636)

          It's not ironic. Anti-abortionists have all the compassion in the world for the sick. We just don't believe that one person should be healed based on the death of another person, and in our eyes, the embryo is a person. Killing an innocent person (even one that doesn't yet have a brain) to save somebody else is not a good outcome. Depending on the variety of anti-abortionist, some (especially Catholics) reject the creation of these embryos outside of the womb in all cases because of all the moral proble

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          You would probably notice that most anti-abortion movements are against the use of IVF (as is the Catholic Church). I am against it for practical reasons - there are already enough people on earth and their are millions in orphanages just waiting to be adopted by a loving parent.

          I know bashing anti-abortion movements is a Reddit and Slashdot favourite circle jerk, but it is just starting to get ridiculous. Suppose that 1 billion people will reject embryonic stem cell treatment. Now is research into adul
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ArcherB (796902)

          The great fear of the abortion movement is that the public would become aware that the vast majority of embryonic material wouldn't be from abortion (where 95% of the material is mutilated tissue of little value) but the unused fertilized eggs contained in hundreds of thousands of fertility clinics around the country that are no longer needed by the parents that successfully produced children.

          First, there are not hundreds of thousands of fertility clinics in the US. Although, that's a nit-pic.

          The main point is that your statement is a straw man. It's not that those opposed to embryonic stem cell research think that these cells will come from abortions. The problem is that these frozen embryos in these fertility clinics are thawed and encouraged to begin development before they are destroyed in order to harvest the stem cells from them. The problem is that human life is human life. Experimen

        • that the egg produced, than merely an abstract cure, which *might* come about in the future.

          Barack Obama was a prime candidate for abortion: his single mother didn't have the means to raise him. Think about where we would be today if his mother had aborted him.

    • by thule (9041) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:32PM (#27047693) Homepage

      Alternatives to *embryonic* stem cells are in medical trials right now. It is called adult stem cells and something like 80 real-world trials are happening right now. One of the first uses of adult stem cells goes back a few years, it is known as "bone marrow transplant."

      I don't think I have heard of a single clinical trial using embryonic stem cells. That is why embryonic stem cells need government subsidies. The real money is in treatments that have hope of working.

      • by LucidAU (1490755)
        Why should the government subsidise embryonic stem cell trials when the harvesting of stem cells from the host will ensure that they are not rejected? If I was taking part in a clinical trial I would prefer tissue from my own stem cells over a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs.
        • by MPolo (129811)

          I think your parent had some sarcasm in the last sentence that you missed. Embyronic stem cells need government funding because no sane entrepreneur would waste his money on a treatment that has no chance of working. Or at least that's what I understood.

          Unfortunately, I think the real story is that if someone gets embryonic stem cells to work somehow, he will patent the process to make a fortune out of it. The pharmaceutical companies want to get to this holy grail, but don't want to risk their own money o

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            I heard a couple years ago about a German experiment that cured a congenital heart disfunction with donor-supplied stem cells. This cost a total of 200 or 300 euros.

            I'd really like to see an article on this, if I could.

            You see, this sort of thing would require at least two medical procedures and lab work; extraction, lab modification/screening, implantation.

            For the heart, I don't see implantation being cheap, I don't see the labwork being cheap, etc... Either they're talking about a very limited selection of the costs(national healthcare took care of the rest!), or there's a few zeros missing in there.

            It it's true, and really that cheap, you'd think it'd have been tru

            • by MPolo (129811)

              I only saw it on the German television news, and that means it was pretty fluff-oriented, but the impression I had was that they simply withdrew some of her bone marrow, treated this in a lab, and injected it into the heart muscle.

              I don't even know the precise nature of the ailment that was corrected, just that they stressed the difference in price tag to a traditional surgery.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                I don't even know the precise nature of the ailment that was corrected, just that they stressed the difference in price tag to a traditional surgery.

                Compared to most traditional heart surgury, the proceedure could be 20-30k Euros in price and still be a bargain.

                It just sounds like something I would have heard about.

    • Even though some people keep painting embryonic stem cells as the holy grail of stem cell research, this is quite frankly rubbish. Unless they are your own cells you face the same rejection and immune defence problems with embryonic stem cells as you would with any donated organ.

      Until we figure out human cloning (which is another ethical issue), embryonic stem cells are only interesting in that they are an easy source of stem cells for study. The most obvious path at present for actually using stem cells in

    • by treddy (1445685)

      how much scientific effort has been displaced into "finding other ways to make stem cells" that could otherwise have gone into "finding ways to use stem cells to treat medical conditions".

      The key difference here is that, ideally, you'd like to be treated with your own stem cells. Think organ transplants -- you could get stem cells from some embryonic source, but your body would likely reject them. I'm not a proponent of recent science-policy regarding stem cells but, in retrospect, these "workarounds" may end up being critical discoveries on the path to cell-based therapy.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We see these stories about eight times a year. "New alternative to embryonic stem cells just around the corner". It's never clear how far around the corner it really is, though.

      The ironic thing is that we have had "treatments from embryonic stem cell research just around the corner" news continuously for years but nothing has yet emerged. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are already being used in numerous treatments.

  • Not quite... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GravitonMan (1145905) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:07PM (#27047537)
    They haven't shown that the cells can actually differentiate into any cell type. They have just shown that they express the biological markers that make it look like a pluipotent stem cell. Meaning that expresses a few surface markers that they tested. That dosen't mean that it can turn into any type of stem cell. I wouldn't hold my breathe.
    Killing babies still has a much better chance of growing me a new liver.

    /bring me another beer!
    • Re:Not quite... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by heatseeker_around (1246024) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:30PM (#27047679)
      as my wife (who does research and writes articles in neuroscience) says: 90% of the research is to find something enough interesting to get more money for your researches. It's not bad, it simply is how it works in science research. When you write an article, you always have to project your discovery into the future and tell how it will (not would) affect and save the life of many sick people, even if you know it will happen in 100 years at last.
      • as my wife (who does research and writes articles in neuroscience) says: 90% of the research is to find something enough interesting to get more money for your researches.
        It's not bad, it simply is how it works in science research. When you write an article, you always have to project your discovery into the future and tell how it will (not would) affect and save the life of many sick people, even if you know it will happen in 100 years at last.

        Loftiest "That's what she said!" evar.

    • Also as important... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Y.A.A.P. (1252040)

      The question of whether these cells can be re-differentiated without using a virus to reprogram the cells is an important question yet to be answered from this research.

      There is another important question to be addressed with this technique, however.

      The article mentions cancer as a side effect for virus-engineered stem cells and immune rejection for stem cells from other people.

      Would this technique manage to create stem cell-derived new cells without their own set of side effects?

      Cancer is assumed

    • by Iraneus (1112535)
      Anyone care to count the useful (efficacious, "safe" for the recipient) therapies delivered from embryonic stem cells? It's actually easy - none. Despite this, let's assume knock-it-out-of-park efficaciousness for embryonic stem cell research (just for the sake of this discussion) ... what about that "killing babies" thing ... ok or not? I say "not" ... as does the preponderance of human history.
      • by Firethorn (177587)

        I think the idea is that with a lot of research done with embryos that are dead* to begin with, that we'd learn more about the stem cell process and have a better idea of what to do with our adult stem cells to either transform them into 'younger' versions or turn them directly into cell types that we need.

        I think it says something when Europe, with over double the population of the USA, can't simply bypass our refusal to federally fund one research path by allocating more funding to it and cornering the 'm

      • by maxume (22995)

        During the preponderance of human history, women were pregnant all the time (except when lactating), and babies were killed if there wasn't enough food. Only relatively recently has life been secure enough to make it a choice.

    • Unless it's diseased, most of your liver can grow back on it's own.
    • Induced pluripotent cells (which they generated here) are actually shown to be able to differentiate into many many cell types. Indeed the next step is to test their properties in more detail but literature suggests it will work with a high probability. Here directly from wikipedia:

      Pluripotency: iPSCs were capable of differentiation in a fashion similar to ESCs into fully differentiated tissues.

      * Neural Differentiation: iPSCs were differentiated into neurons, expressing &#9
    • Killing babies still has a much better chance of growing me a new liver.

      I know you were trying for humor, but don't fall into the pro-lifer's trap of calling fetus' "babies." In fact, at the stage that most embryonic stem cells are harvested, it isn't even a fetus. It's a blastocyst ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blastocyst [wikipedia.org] ). The pro-lifer's want people to have images in their heads of sweet, innocent babies sitting there cooing while evil scientists sharpen their knives, slaughter them, and cackle wild

  • Wouldn't it be so much cooler if the headline had read "Advance In Making Killer Stem Cells From Skin?"

  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:13PM (#27047577) Homepage Journal
    Make stem cells the way nature intended: from aborted fetuses.

    Quit wimping around.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drosboro (1046516)

      And deal with anti-rejection drugs? I'd rather not.

      Clearly it's rather early on, but this does seem like a promising advance... it would be interesting to see if the same technique could be used in other areas - delivering useful genes to somatic cells, cancer cells, etc. It might have interesting implications for gene therapy research.

    • What's the REAL skinny on this?

    • by VShael (62735)

      Oblig Southpark :

      [B]Cartman[/B]: Hello. Is this the University of Colorado Biology Department? Great, uh I understand you're currently doing research on stem cells? Cool, because I'm currently in possession of some aborted fetuses that I'm looking to unload? Uh, how much do you pay? No, no, come on, I got a guy who's gonna give me eighty dollars a pound right now. How about a hundred? Oh you're breaking my balls! I'll think about it.

      [B]Cartman[/B]: Bosnod Medical Group? Yeah, I called earlier about the stem

  • article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ccharlot (1490733)
    Any way to access the article without paying through the nose?
  • By the way... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) * <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:34PM (#27047703) Homepage Journal
    The universities in the study in question are both public universities. This is government science funding at work; its a shame it isn't US government science funding.
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Because the United States is the only source for medical advances in the world. If it was really that big of a deal there is nothing stopping the EU from donating money to the research.
      • Because the United States is the only source for medical advances in the world

        Did you somehow reach that odd conclusion by reading what I wrote? Because I said nothing to support such a wholly inaccurate statement. In my own research I have collaborators from several other countries; my statement was indeed more of a criticism of how inadequate our science research funding is in the states, while simultaneously pointing out that the prestige given to private schools is not always deserved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:48PM (#27047749)

    Disclaimer - I work with these guys on occasion.

    I am an hESC biologist, and this stuff is quite significant. I expect iPS cells will take over from hESC in the near to mid-term future (5-10 years). Not that I have any problems with hESC, but as a professional in the field, if they can do the same things and not bother people as much, why not? It's worth noting though that this would never have happened without research on embryonic stem cells to allow us to identify the culture conditions etc necessary to maintain puripotence. This lab is not-coincidentally also one of the few Canadian labs licensed to make new hESC lines from discarded blastocysts. Also worth noting that iPS lines will eliminate some of the ethical issues around hESC - but definitely not all of them. This will be particularly important in the U.S. IIRC - Canadian law on hESC is defined around pluripotence (e.g. it includes human iPSC), whereas I don't think this is the case south of the border.

    In a timely juxtaposition, the other primary front-page story in today's Globe and Mail was about cutbacks to Canadian research funding. While you guys get Obama and an extra $10bn to the NIH, we are stuck with a conservative government and losing hundreds of millions from our research councils [theglobeandmail.com]. Our Minister of Science and Technology (a chiropractor FFS) apparently screamed at representatives of the national organization of University professors and stomped out of the room when asked about it.

    For those Canadians reading this: Canadian scientists are among the best in the world. We can compete on this and many other playing fields - but we need stable, non-politicized funding, most particularly for basic research like this. Industry will not do this kind of work, the profits are too far down the road. Our government needs to stop playing silly power games, and pay attention to the task at hand, before we lose a lot of these top players to the U.S.

    Please write (snail-mail as always is both free [parl.gc.ca] and most effective) your MP and encourage them to support scientific research in Canada. If nothing else, when the bailout money runs out and the carmakers finally go belly up, this is where the next generation of jobs will come from.

  • Is ethics the business of identifying rules regarding what we'd feel bad for having done, so that we can avoid guilty feelings?

    I can kind of understand theists' reasons for striving to act in a moral/ethical way, but I've never gotten a clear explanation of why non-theists would put energy into ethics (medical ethics, in this case).

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow that's a loaded question. Assuming you are not a troller I will try to answer as best I can. Some schools of ethics rely on the presence of a higher power, while IMHO the more stable and logical schools follow the 'least amount of harm' philosophy. The question needs to be asked, will more harm come to society if we use embryonic stem cells or if we avoid them. In this case it seems to me that the answer is using them causes no harm, which is why the Canadian government cannot find a reason to ban the

      • Wow that's a loaded question. Assuming you are not a troller I will try to answer as best I can. Some schools of ethics rely on the presence of a higher power, while IMHO the more stable and logical schools follow the 'least amount of harm' philosophy. The question needs to be asked, will more harm come to society if we use embryonic stem cells or if we avoid them. In this case it seems to me that the answer is using them causes no harm, which is why the Canadian government cannot find a reason to ban the use of embryonic material

        I didn't meant my question as a troll. Actually, I don't even understand why you're saying it's loaded. I guess I have a lot more reading to do.

        But anyway, even with the "least amount of harm" idea, what's the plenary motivation for pursuing it? Is it basically that a person tries to work out and/or apply (in this case, medical) ethics with a goal of maximizing a feeling of moral goodness and/or minimizing feelings of guilt?

      • I think part of the ethics is also, would we have a problem with someone else doing it? Part of that is a race for "defensive" power like the atom bomb or mutual insured destruction. But another part is, we wouldn't want our enemies to be using e. coli like bio-weapons, so we shouldn't.

        Theist may fear a vengeful higher power, but people, theist or not, would fear repercussions from our peers. Repercussions is what keeps our society running. Keeping the majority of people "law-abiding" the majority of th

  • I find it funny when people go on about stem cell research and how it's always promised it will be around the corner, 10 years away. Stem cell research only had enough potential for the public to get excited about about 10 years ago, and now, about 10 years latter their has already been amazing successes using stem cell treatments, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. it's makeing steady progress, and it's the most amazing medical advancement since the concept of organ transplants started looking like
  • by littlewink (996298)

    ...doctors may be one step closer to treating a multitude of diseases, including Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's.

    To which I say "Horseshit!" The day that American medicine finds a cure for cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's is the day that American medicine goes out of business. Doctors, HMOs, big pharma and hospitals are too busy making money off the sick to fix these problems.

    We've been paying for a war on cancer for over 50 years and don't have a cure; surgery remains butchery; antibio

    • by Improv (2467)

      Ron Paul? Is that you? :)

    • by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:27AM (#27049793) Homepage Journal

      To which I say "Horseshit!" The day that American medicine finds a cure for cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's is the day that American medicine goes out of business. Doctors, HMOs, big pharma and hospitals are too busy making money off the sick to fix these problems.

      Then why hasn't Europe, Canada, or Australia, with national healthcare systems, found cures? Surely it'd be in their best interests to cure stuff?

      We've successfully cured cancer lots of times. The problem is that there's millions of versions of cancer; heck, you could say everybody who gets cancer gets their own, personalized version. A person can get cancer, completely separate, unrelated cancers, multiple times. Alzheimer's is ultimately fatal. A living patient is more likely to pay money for healthcare in the future than a dead one. They actually cured type 1 diabetes a couple times; they're working on fixing a problematic side effect(90% of the test group got cancer from the treatment). I think they're working on some gene therapies for parkinson's, not sure, have to head to work.

      Cancer's worse than the common cold for variants; surgery has gotten a lot better(laparoscope and such); welcome to evolution; vaccines still work great.

      1. No way - we have enough problems with medical malpractice. I'd like to fire the worst 2% or so.
      2. Agreed. Medical knowledge has significantly outpaced the ability of a MD to store it in his head
      3. There's a limit to how much you can specialize; everything in the human body interrelates. I'm serious. Dentists need to know some heart stuff because messing around with your teeth can screw up your heart.
      4. Good idea; goes along with my idea of firing the worst 2% or so.

      • We've successfully cured cancer lots of times. The problem is that there's millions of versions of cancer; heck, you could say everybody who gets cancer gets their own, personalized version. A person can get cancer, completely separate, unrelated cancers, multiple times.

        You are the most renowned general of an undefeated army. The Emperor calls you to court and tells you: "We have received intelligence that a mighty army, intent on invasion, is gathering at the frontier. Go forth, engage and defeat them."

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          telephone sanitizers... heh...

          It's more like I go and defeat the Mongols on the eastern border, but they're light calvery. Then I have to face the Teutons on the western border, but they're heavy calvery, requiring different tactics and equipment. Then on the northern border are the infrantry Slavs, and so on...

          Yes, the Emperor doesn't care about the taxonomy of the various threats/invaders(I'll assume he's not a military emperor and is far too busy with his harem), but it doesn't change the fact that:

        • by David Gould (4938)

          The general's report should have been something more like:

          Our original intel was somewhat misleading: indeed there are many warriors gathering, but they are not one mighty army. Rather, there are many small armies, some with alliances amongst themselves, but generally independent of each other. I have met several of them in battle, and defeated them, and I've gathered significant intel on many of the others. Defeating all of them will require a longer campaign, and there can be no single decisive victory over all of them at once, because there is no single leader who commands all of them.

          The Emperor might still be less than pleased, but he should be able to understand this.

          • by Firethorn (177587)

            The Emperor might still be less than pleased, but he should be able to understand this.

            ooh... I like that explanation. Very good.

    • I say "Horseshit" to you. The reason that no cure for "cancer" has been found is because "cancer" is not one thing, it is many things. Some cancer has been cured. Here is a list of curable cancers:
      * Childhood Acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL)
      * Hodgkin's disease
      * Large cell lymphoma
      * APL
      * Testicular cancer
      * Choriocarcinoma
      http://www.fhcrc.org/science/education/courses/cancer_course/clinical/treatment/curable.html [fhcrc.org]
      So your whole premise is crap. Modern medicine is making m
    • by maxume (22995)

      You're a dipshit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I recently saw a talk by Rudolf Jaenisch, who is one of the pioneers in this field. He stressed that while there is great hope for iPS cells, they underscore the need for more work done with actual embryonic lines. The first iPS cells made in 2006 couldn't do the same things as the newer lines that are made today, and the lines that are made today can't do all the things that some embryonic lines can do. We need to do much more research to characterize the embryonic lines to understand what makes them sp

  • I bet they'll have this perfected in 2 years. Good thing Obama went all liberal early and decided to speak out totally pro-embryonic stem cell research. It's not like he didn't know this sort of thing was being developed for the last few years. So what's the big problem here? He burnt up so many political points saying "yay, let's chop up human babies!" and all the conservatives modded him down as flamebait lol. He could have just remained on the fence or refused to comment about the issue until it was
  • This is the more important question. But somehow, doctors, the phamaceutic industy, and "health" insurance companies do not care at all about it.
    The only thing I ever hear is "We found out how to fix this, and that.". Never "We found out how you can prevent yourself from ever getting this."

    As long as the medical "science" does not concentrate on prevention, they're still stuck in the middle-ages.
    For example all the so-called "diseases of old-age" can be back-traced to eating bad food for decades, toxins/dan

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Really, you have never seen articles about "We found out how you can prevent yourself from getting"? You have never read about how smoking causes health problems? You have never read about how increasing dietary fiber reduces the risk of colon cancer? There are more, but I think this shows that your premise is bunk.
      The problem is that the "diseases of old age" have many possible causes and it takes a long time to identify them.
      People forget that in 1900 greater than 3 out of 100 children died between th
  • The supposed ethical issues with embryonic stem cells were a red herring. What the loonies really want is no stem cell work at all to take place. So now the self appointed guardians of morals and ethics must put on their pointy hats and try to find a way to declare skin cell derived stem cells immoral.
                How moral or ethical is it for these ignorant idiots to have opinions in the first place?

    • by ArcherB (796902)

      The supposed ethical issues with embryonic stem cells were a red herring. What the loonies really want is no stem cell work at all to take place. So now the self appointed guardians of morals and ethics must put on their pointy hats and try to find a way to declare skin cell derived stem cells immoral.

      How moral or ethical is it for these ignorant idiots to have opinions in the first place?

      Strawman! Absolutely not true. No one has a problem with adult derived stem cells.
      OK, sure, there are the fringe kooks, but there are also people who think that the human race should go extinct for the good of the planet. These people are discounted and with good reason. So, labeling those that are against killing human embryos for scientific research as being against ALL stem cell research is the same as me labeling you one who WANTS to kill human embryos to aid in human extinction. Both would be a lo

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @07:51AM (#27049905) Journal

    ...that the bulk of the comments here are some sort of ridicule for the Christian Right, instead of plaudits for the idea of an advancement that makes the 'farming' of stem cells morally neutral.

    Are we really so shallow that rather than confronting someone else's (and it's not a trivial % of the populace) genuine moral questions in sympathy, that we simply mock them? Don't bother replying, we all know the answer.

    I don't necessarily agree with the concept that every zygote is sacred; nevertheless I can well see the difficulty of harvesting something from those zygotes for the people who do. (More accurately stated, their fear that there will be a sudden discovery of 'value' in these zygotes, inspiring the full range morality-free behaviors which typically characterize humans when confronted by something of value.) What's more ironic is that the unbelievable, staggering values that's been postulated for embryonic stem cells remains apparently that after all these years: apparently the entire world outside the US is furiously researching uses for these cells, as well as any US lab capable of operating free of the US gov't largesse, but nobody's managed to come up with a real-world useful therapy yet? Curious.

    To get back to the point, I feel however that Christians' furor over stem cells would be more accurately directed at the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of fertilized eggs 'disposed of' in the artificial insemination process every year...but that cat is well out of its particular bag, culturally speaking.

    I find it equally ironic that some of people that rail against the 'naive' Christians for their 'ridiculous' discomfort at harvesting a resource from zygotes, are some of the same people who express outrage at the ripping of inorganic resources from a not-potentially-a-person ground. I guess it just depends where a person sees value.

  • maybe now we can stop killing babies

  • I'm surprised no one wondered yet, are they doing this with "dead skin cells" that flake off, or do they need living tissue? I find it hard to believe that can use viruses to mutate dead cells, and though it's not as bad as the pound of flesh Shylock demanded, I wonder how much flesh they need. If you remember from an episode of House, where Cameron takes a scalpel and slices off a chunk of skin from the old patient, causing it to bleed. That's the image I got when I read this.

  • Still, this is just a minor advance. We're still a long way off from doing anything truly interesting yet.

    Wake me up when we can make gametes from these stem cells.

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