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Biotech Science

Scientists Can Grow Stem Cells In a Petri Dish 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-cookin'-now dept.
rift321 writes "Scientists safely created induced pluripotent stem cells from human stem cells, and grew them in a petri dish. The previous methods for creating iPSC's involved the use of retroviruses, which rendered the stem cells unacceptable for human implantation due to an increased risk of cancer and mutations. The researchers used a safer, albeit slower process to modify the skin cells, using a cell-penetrating peptide to deliver the needed genes into the cell (PDF). I'd like to hear if anyone has some insight into exactly how close that brings us to everyday-use of stem cells for regenerative therapy, and exactly what obstacles remain before such therapies can be put to use."
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Scientists Can Grow Stem Cells In a Petri Dish

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  • by buttfscking (1515709) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @12:57PM (#28159153)
    That's what I was thinking. How many times a year do we read these articles about a miraculous stem cell breakthrough? At some point they have to stop crying wolf. That said, I'm glad they're making advances, no matter how premature some of these announcements seem.
  • by someone1234 (830754) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @01:11PM (#28159253)

    This is a new field of technology, sure it needs several breakthroughs and refinements before it becomes practical.
    I prefer hearing news about it than no news at all.

  • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @01:14PM (#28159285) Homepage Journal

    I can manifest those mutant powers I've always wanted!

    I'd be happy just to replace my missing teeth !

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 31, 2009 @01:16PM (#28159299)

    They who? This is, as the authors clearly state, a proof-of-concept method which takes longer and has lower efficiency than previous methods but is hopefully safer. The only people making premature announcements of a miraculous breakthrough or crying wolf etc. are news media, but that is to be expected. What needs to be done now is to improve on this method by using purified proteins, as opposed to HEK293 cell extracts, and making other optimizations. Regarding the applicability of induced pluripotent SCs (iPSCs) to treatment, I'm not sure if a standard has been defined to assess the "acceptable closeness" of iPSCs to real ESCs and use in treatment would also require directed differentiation to cell types relevant to the disease. Not sure if there are even any clinical trials using cells that have been differentiated from ESCs. So lots of work left.

  • by moon3 (1530265) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @01:20PM (#28159331)
    you can inject this stuff into you and magically turn 16

    24 would work for me, thanks.
  • by maxume (22995) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @02:12PM (#28159783)

    'Only' is a pretty strong word there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 31, 2009 @02:22PM (#28159849)

    Oh quit being such a downer.

    It IS a big deal because it is another small step towards me being able to grow my own replacement organs.
    Every tiny step we take towards that goal is exciting.

    When we reach the stage where we can grow replacement organs which will have no rejection problems we will be able to add *decades* to our lifespans. It will be the greatest advance since antibiotics.

  • FDA Hurdles (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fenpark15 (1445727) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @03:15PM (#28160257)
    You might recall the article about a woman who received a trachea transplant that was created from her own stem cells in Fall '08. That took place in Europe. The process for FDA clearance in the US is exceedingly cumbersome and conservative (I'm a biomedical engineer and this is a huge pain). It is a major milestone to be able to culture these cells, but this is still in the realm of science, not medicine. It may be decades before such technologies are commonly applied for medical treatments and, undoubtedly, the US will be last in line behind the other 1st world countries.
  • So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:19PM (#28162051) Journal

    ...this is GOOD news for everyone, right?

    The people who demanded stem cells research be funded by the government (it was never banned, despite the rhetoric of the Left), now they will be able to gather as many stem cells as they want to follow any potential lead in terms of therapies.

    The people who had moral qualms about the circumstances of gathering stem cells and the potential for abuse will be able to rest easy that there is NO moral context in the harvesting of petri-originated stem cells.

    I know it's really, really hard not to fling poo at each other (if only from habit) but can we all agree this is a good thing?

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @07:54PM (#28162295) Homepage
    My reply wasn't particularly pointed at any given specific therapy - you actually mentioned only a general concept and concern. I was pointing out that this really does not, in and of itself, create any medical treatment or device. It's the beginning of a tool kit, if you will, to tease out how organismal development works. Whether or not it yields any medical treatment or drug at all is open to conjecture. There is a very long road between this result and my magical fountain of youth.

    But to brighten your day perhaps - an important subtext of this research is how easy it is to get to what appears to be pluerepotent stem cells. Four proteins. Already three different techniques [nature.com] to get these into cells. Published research that others ought to be able to reproduce. Not only in this patent crazy country but everywhere else that has the infrastructure to do this kind of research. Which is relatively easy - certainly doesn't need any fancy expensive physics package like the LHC. IF medical therapies come of this line of research, it will be broadly known and likely broadly copied.

    Stay tuned.
  • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday May 31, 2009 @08:14PM (#28162443) Homepage Journal

    Though fetal stem cells (taken from aborted fetuses) may be useful for research,

    Haha.. you fell into the Conservative lies.

    It's called embryonic stem cell [wikipedia.org] technology because the stem cells come from embryos. We're talking no more than 50-150 cell bundles here. But some people believe that "life starts at conception" and, to them, that means any fertilized ovum should be carried to term. They encourage people to adopt frozen embryos and call the babies that result "snowflake children". Of course, the vast majority of frozen embryos are not adopted (and it would be completely impractical to do so anyway) so they are destroyed.

  • Re:So... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @12:20AM (#28164151)

    > (it was never banned, despite the rhetoric of the Left)

    Too young to remember back that far? It was "not a ban" in the same kind of way that Microsoft is "not a monopoly". It effectively immediately killed research, because a company doing work on embryonic stem cells (except a few lines that turned out to be completely useless due to contamination) couldn't receive any federal funding for anything else at all. This covered every organization at the time that was willing and able to do that research. It was pretty much the science equivalent of forcing highway speed limits by holding highway funding hostage.

    A few companies had the resources to spin off fully independent labs with no shared facilities/funding/personnel, much in the same way that Microsoft technically was never the only for-profit desktop computer OS maker because Apple always had a few percent of the market. But it still raised the bar so high as to make the research almost impossible, and the intent was very clearly to try to make it completely impossible.

Never put off till run-time what you can do at compile-time. -- D. Gries

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