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Medicine Science

Advance In Making Stem Cells From Skin 139

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 NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:13PM (#27047571)
    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 DMUTPeregrine ( 612791 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:27PM (#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 thule ( 9041 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:32PM (#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.

  • Re:article (Score:2, Informative)

    by drosboro ( 1046516 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:33PM (#27047699)

    Not without being a university student (or something like that)...

    However, the abstract is available here:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature07863.html [nature.com]

  • Re:article (Score:5, Informative)

    by drosboro ( 1046516 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:35PM (#27047707)

    Oh, and there's a news story linked from Nature's front page on the topic:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090227/full/458019a.html [nature.com]

    It also links to a second paper at:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature07864.html [nature.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:48PM (#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.

  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot@NosPam.pitabred.dyndns.org> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:15AM (#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.
  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:23AM (#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 CyberDong ( 137370 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:54AM (#27048333)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @09:03AM (#27049983)

    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.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:45AM (#27050915) Journal

    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. Experimenting on human life without consent is considered unethical by anyone with morals above the common Nazi. Even those that support abortion rights would be against removing a live fetus for the purpose of scientific research.

    No, I'm afraid that abortion is brought into this by those that support embryonic stem cell research. Abortion proponents fear that if you grant human rights to a five cell embryo (read: deem it human), then you grant human rights to all fetuses, making abortion murder. This is why they push for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. To do so will strip zygotes of being recognized as human by law, thus further securing abortion rights. This is the goal for many that support the destruction of human embryos for the purpose of stem cell research. The fact that the research performed embryonic stem cells has produced little when compared to the advances and potential of adult derived stem cells means nothing. The push for funding for embryonic stem cells on NEW stem cell lines is for no other reason than to push a political agenda.

    Further proof that this is to push an agenda:
    * There is no ban on research for embryonic stem cell research. Just a ban on federal funding based on NEW stem cell lines.
    * The US federal funding ban has no effect on government funding from all the other countries in the world. NASA chose Mars over Venus. The USSR went to Venus. Much of what we know about Venus is because the Soviets went there. Is that knowledge no good? Much of what the world knows about Mars is because the US went there. Knowledge is knowledge, regardless of which government funded it.
    * The US funds stem cell research. Bush made a decision to focus that funding on existing stem cell lines and stem cells produced without destroying a human embryo. Protesting the US federal funding ban would be like protesting NASA for going to Mars instead of Venus.
    * There is no ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research for NON-humans. Don't we experiment with mice before people? Why the rush to go straight to human trials?

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.