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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 Bombula ( 670389 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @10:56PM (#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 dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:03PM (#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".

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

    by GravitonMan ( 1145905 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:07PM (#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 @11:30PM (#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.
  • Re:Lame lame lame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drosboro ( 1046516 ) on Monday March 02, 2009 @11:38PM (#27047721)

    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.

  • by schwillis ( 1073082 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:09AM (#27047841)
    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 it might be possible.
  • by littlewink ( 996298 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:26AM (#27047917)

    ...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; antibiotics are losing their effectiveness; no significant inroads against viruses have been made. The American medical establishment needs a radical dollar-ectomy in the form of

    • reduced requirements for an M.D.,
    • More use of computerized diagnostic systems,
    • increased specialization to the point of effectiveness,
    • tracking of success rates and costs of individual doctors.

    "One step closer" doesn't mean anything when you're miles from home.

  • by !coward ( 168942 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:59AM (#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 Alinabi ( 464689 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:32AM (#27048461)

    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 bigbird ( 40392 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @06:05AM (#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 Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:27AM (#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.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @08:51AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:18AM (#27050613)
    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 adult stem cells so expensive as to forbid research into it that can be used by a billion people? If stem cell treatment takes off, wouldn't the supply from IVF be limited?
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#27050635) Journal

    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 []. 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 conflict, and it is not necessarily religious. The problem is that some people, regardless of their religious beliefs, see that human life is human life. That means that a human is a human, regardless of the number of cells. Of course, we can all agree that experiments on people without their consent is unethical. So, destroying a human embryo in the name of scientific research is also deemed unethical. I would like to stress that this is not exclusively a religious view. There are many people that don't think man has the wisdom to know when a human becomes a person and decides to err on the side of caution. So rather than say a zygote gains human rights when it reaches X number of cells or reaches a certain stage of development, many believe that human rights should start at the beginning, which is a single cell.

    Which brings me back to the original point of the Big Bang/Religion false controversy. Many people like to paint religion as anti-science. They like to claim that anyone opposing their views is doing so in order to force their religious beliefs on those that have no interest in them. Of course, there are religious "sects" that opposed science and label it as heresy, but there are also non-religious people that think that they were anally probed by aliens. These "extremists" need to be eliminated from the discussion as they add nothing but strawmen for the other side.

    The truth is that religion as a whole has nothing against stem cell research. It's the destruction of embryos (seen as people) to create stem cells that causes the conflict. Even when Bush offered funding to stem cell research (the first to do so), he banned funding for research that resulted in the destruction of human life. However, he did allow for funding to go toward embryonic stem cell research, provided it used stem cells from the then existing 71 lines of stem cells because "we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life-and-death decision has already been made." (From HERE []. Read the whole thing!) So, there are no limits on stem cell research, even embryonic stem cell research, provided no further embryos are destroyed to create the stem cells. And as this discovery and so many others like it show, the destruction of embryos is completely unnecessary, and merely serves to push a political agenda.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @11:44AM (#27051625)
    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 the ages of 2 and 20, in 2000 that rate was less than 2 out of 1000.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.