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Biotech Science

Reprogrammed Skin Cells Turned Into Baby Mice 284

InfiniteZero writes "According to this WSJ story, 'Two teams of Chinese researchers working separately have reprogrammed mature skin cells of mice to an embryonic-like state and used the resulting cells to create live mouse offspring. The reprogramming may bring scientists one step closer to creating medically useful stem-cell lines for treating human disease without having to resort to controversial laboratory techniques. However, the advance poses fresh ethical challenges because the results could make it easier to create human clones and babies with specific genetic traits.'"
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Reprogrammed Skin Cells Turned Into Baby Mice

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  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:11PM (#28830557)
    What bullshit. If you support stem cell research (as I do) have the balls to call it what it is...
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:22PM (#28830669)
    "i'm pretty sure punishing people for killing other innocent people (even to save another) is not considered shoving morals down throats"

    but that's got nothing to do with stem cell research - you can kill other people to harvest their organs right now. and it does happen. so that's adding nothing to the discussion.

    the point is, we should be given the freedom to get to the point where we need to answer such moral questions like "when is an cloned organ donor human?" for ourselfs, and not have that taken away by the moralist right.

  • by GrantRobertson ( 973370 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:35PM (#28830807) Homepage Journal

    In free countries, how did the powerful become powerful? Have they done something you couldn't do?

    Often they have done something (or a series of things) that most people wouldn't do, and that many believe one shouldn't do. It is rarely or ever a simple matter of the ones with the power having been the ones who were merely more capable. Free countries still have social norms, standard ethical codes, and even laws that a few choose to ignore. That those few who choose to ignore the norms, codes, and laws sometimes gain power is not an excuse for the rest of us to ignore them as well. An "every man for himself" culture often sounds great until that "every man" happens to be someone who is willing or able to take from you to get what they want.

  • Re:Controversial? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nawcom ( 941663 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:36PM (#28830809) Homepage

    The problem is some spirituals, such as Christians, believe cloning is like playing God, and should be eschewed by all means.

    In that sense, we are in fact playing a role of their "God". Why don't they pray to their god and tell him to finally show himself in a physical sense and then we can discuss what his little rules are regarding this. This reminds me of that quote, "God did not create man in his own image, rather, man created God in his own image." Science is becoming God.

  • The summary is trying to bring up classic fears of cloning. However just because they raised pups from skin cells does not mean they can raise offspring from those cells that have a legitimate chance of living full lives. If they are indeed starting from adult skin cells, then they are starting with essentially old material; mammalian cells (excluding gametes and their progenitor cells) generally only can divide a certain number of times before they are no longer really viable for growth.

    So before we see people start banging the drum over "ZOMG! Teh humanz r cloning!" we need to see if these mouse clones are actually viableclonesof their parents.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:40PM (#28830849) Homepage

    God did it when he made Eve from the rib [cells] of Adam. This is nothing new or remarkable. But, because God did it, we shouldn't... just like flight and other technologies man has managed to understand the develop. Have I said that right? What say you "Religious Right"?

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @06:40PM (#28830851)

    There is no scientific consensus on when life begins, but most would agree that the thing is a living human whenever the egg is fertilized.

    It appears we are now on a slippery slope that some of us have been predicting for a long time. From the article: "All you need are somebody's skin cells to create a human baby."

    That isn't quite true yet, but it will be soon. The technique these guys are using injects reverted skin cells into an existing embryo, so you still need an embryo to start with. But that's just a temporary thing. At some point we will be able to revert skin cells to zygotes, and at that point all the crazy "life begins at conception therefore abortion is wrong" folks will go really nuts, because the completely nominal line between "ordinary somatic cell" and "living human being" will be entirely erased. Every cell in our bodies will clearly have the potential to become an independent, living human being, just like a zygote made the old fashion way.

    Every human society has practised some form of defacto infanticide, and abortion is WAY better than any alternative, and pregnant women are FAR more qualified than anyone else--both on an information-theoretic basis and a moral basis--to decide what happens to their offspring and their body. Ergo, life begins at conception, and abortion is not wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:50PM (#28831773)

    In other words, the essential part that makes humans different from animals, the "software" that when running on the brain constitutes a human IS running. The mind is active, and starts exploring it's surroundings.

    Last time I checked, both humans and animals have "software" running on their brains. The difference between humans and animals is opposable thumbs and language.

    That higher brain functions and analytical capacities develop very, very early on can be illustrated in a manner so dramatical to disgust even the biggest proponent of abortion in a very simple way : a 6-week old baby that's getting aborted FIGHTS the scissors inserted to rip it to shreds [], meaning a baby of that age realises what is happening, or at the very least realizes that those scissors are there for a very bad reason, and is capable of enough coordination against those scissors to convince a human (s)he's fighting her abortion.

    I agree with you that a 6-week-old baby could realize that scissors killing it are bad. However, I was not aware that a baby could be aborted 6 weeks after being born. Perhaps you were thinking of a fetus? That is different. A fetus may attempt to resist any sharp object coming at it, but I doubt that it realizes anything about the situation other than that it is in danger. However, I haven't seen any evidence of this; the video you linked was just seven minutes of pro-life propaganda. It contained no fetus-on-scissors action. Way to disappoint.

    Abortions have nothing to do with "free" sex. That's what condoms are for. An abortion is about preventing a baby from being born.

  • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Sunday July 26, 2009 @08:54PM (#28831807)

    The moral side of me agrees with you.

    The "I'll do whatever the fuck I wanna" side thinks you should go to hell. How dare you infringe my right to do as I please?

    Sadly, people think that free sex is a god given right and don't give a shit about the consequences.

    I dare say that if sex were more restrained, we could cure AIDS in a heartbeat, along with every other STD out there.

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Sunday July 26, 2009 @09:46PM (#28832081) Homepage

    Cows are a ridiculous example, since they've long made the evolutionary choice of serving as human's food.

    For them (well ... for their genes), there has never been a better decision. There is no single large mammal, anywhere in history, that had numbers that even approach the number of cows alive today.

    Unfortunately, there is also another side to your question. A human, 2-year-old child is perfectly able to not become sentient, or at least lose the ability to respond in what we'd consider a sentient way to other humans. Several human babies have, obviously by accident, been raised by various large animals. Wolves, dogs, apes, ... all have raised human infants, and in all cases the resulting adults were not capable of developing sufficient cognitive ability to live in human society. Only one of them ever learned basic speech.

    Some psychologists claim that any human being, if isolated from communication for a long enough period, will actually lose sentience. Or at the very least will lose the ability to speak, read, or even feel pain.

    So the problem is simple : a 2-year old child would not be sentient by the criterion that you imply. And there are human adults alive that would not satisfy this criterion either. Entire uncivilized tribes would fail that distinction, and would be considered animals. Taken to the extreme, certain ideologies could be taken as distinctly non-sentient (or less sentient) than others. I assume you at least consider every adult human (in this case, say > 12 years) sentient, so your implied criterion would be a non-starter.

    So any real useful criterion for sentience would have to focus on the potential of becoming a feeling, growing, loving, talking, thinking ... being. It would not do to focus on actually having achieved anything, but merely on the potential. Any such criterion, of course, would consider a feutus sentient, which is correct, imho.

  • Drawing the line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @03:08AM (#28833973) Journal

    > Where do we draw the line?

    I'm sure most of us agree we'll have to draw the line somewhere.

    The first problem as you say is "Where?".

    Whatever we choose will seem rather arbitrary, stupid and unsatisfactory to most people, but it's going to be even more stupid to not draw a line. Or worse- to draw many lines on a case to case basis.

    Analogy: when you invent cakes, sooner or later someone has to draw the line and decide what can legally be considered a cake. It be seem silly, and the line may be redrawn later, but it will still have to be drawn. See: []

    Once we give ourselves a "power", it becomes our responsibility.

    Which brings us to the next big problem. To me it seems like the scientists etc are merrily giving us "powers" way before we are ready.

    To me, certain areas of research should be postponed till we are ready to draw the relevant lines.

    Right now scientists and many other people keep saying stuff like "do it because we can", "don't stop progress", "don't be a luddite".

    BUT this is NOT the same as being luddites or sticking our heads in the sand, this is in fact the opposite. This is seeing a potential issue in the horizon, and choosing to not charge at it, until we have a more well thought out plan of what to do when we get there.

    The power to make "Jaffa Cakes" and biscuits is not a real biggie, but what should we do with human/animal/machine hybrids?

    What makes you legally human? Killing a stray aka "free" dog and unplugging a brain dead human are considered different things legally.

    At what points do we consider something human? Be very careful where and how the line is drawn, or many of us may end up not being legally considered human. If we draw the line another way, we might have to stop eating pigs, dogs, etc. The pigs might be happier (or not - since pig farmers will just close down their pig farms and leave them to fend for themselves aka die). It is no trivial matter. We already have enough problems convincing people what can and cannot be done with human embryos, imagine the problems with hybrid human-animal embryos.

    If we are not prepared to draw certain lines yet, "don't go there yet" then. If we charge into things, the judges may not have enough understanding when they draw the first line, could then be a long and troubled wait till it is next redrawn.

    There are plenty of other areas to do research in first (and limited resources anyway). Areas without such problems.

    Lastly, even if a human embryo isn't much in the early months (or weeks), for symbolic reasons we could draw a more cautious (early) line. After all we for various reasons have chosen to elevate humans and human life above all other creatures. If we are going to value humans so highly, giving special value to a near brainless human embryo doesn't seem that stupid to me.

    Plus if we don't, it might be harder to convince the future AIs or advanced hybrids to value humans and their embryos as highly ;).

  • Re:Drawing the line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @04:12AM (#28834251) Homepage

    At what points do we consider something human? Be very careful where and how the line is drawn, or many of us may end up not being legally considered human. If we draw the line another way, we might have to stop eating pigs, dogs, etc.

    This is the fundamental problem of performance-based definitions of sentience. You're never going to find a set of purely performance-based criteria that simultaneously allows all genetic humans, and disqualifies all non-genetic humans, and let us be perfectly clear - what we're trying to do is find a functional excuse for 'speciesism' that lets us justify treating some animals as livestock while retaining the concept that other animals are special.

    It will be a long hard fight for equality when we finally do meet or engineer sentient life from non-human stock. And of course, we'll then have to face the moral question of what rights are 'inalienable' to humans, and what rights should be granted to subhuman but still sentient creatures. Sooner or later we're going to have to face and deal with the fact that *not* all men (of whatever gender and species) are created equal. It's going to be interesting watch people try to decide whether they are all created with equal basic rights to life, liberty etc.

  • by lavaboy ( 21282 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @05:30AM (#28834591)
    let's make it even more fun. Suppose that, as is actually the case, liver donation doesn't necessarily have to be fatal - you can in fact donate a part of your liver to someone in need of one, and it will grow in them if everything works out right. So, who is immoral in the situation where the posited homeless guy makes a deal with the posited CEO to sell him a chunk of his liver? Homeless guy? CEO? Some idiot(s) proclaiming the the sanctity of the abdominal cavity? hmmm...
  • Re:Drawing the line (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:33AM (#28835171) Journal
    That speciesism does help make it harder for one small group of people treating the rest of us as livestock. Or at least gives most of us livestock the illusion that we're not livestock :).

    The target of "equality amongst humans" has produced a fair amount good even if we don't get full marks on it. I daresay it's produced more good than harm, so it's a good target.

    > It will be a long hard fight for equality when we finally do meet or engineer sentient life from non-human stock.

    The sooner we engineer sentient (or near sentient) life, the sooner we have all these problems. We already don't treat most animals that well. OK many pets are treated well, but the rest not so well.

    Are we really ready? What's the benefit compared to the costs? We can repair a few thousand very rich humans? Or we get to revisit that slavery thing? At least dogs are mostly happy to serve us - we bred them that way over generations. But give them some "intelligence" genes that also make them not so "happy to serve" = big problem.

    It's not progress if we create opportunities for doing far more evil than good. Creating a new bunch of sentient creatures just to enslave or use as "spare parts" doesn't come under doing lots of good.

    So with certain fields I think it's best to wait till we can figure out how to do more good than evil with the proposed "advance" in science and tech.

    You can _augment_ humans, without creating "real" AI. You could augment animals too, without creating "AI" or making human-animal hybrids - e.g. use a computer to help a dog/ape/parrot "speak".
  • by gunnarstahl ( 95240 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @07:45AM (#28835263) Homepage

    I can tell you from my own experience that a baby in the fifth week of its life is capable of surviving. Like my son, who was born week 25+2 (meaning 25 weeks plus two days), weighing 740 grams. My wife had developed a condition called hellp syndrome. Now he is six years old. I have videos of his very first hours of life and although this little thing might not be even close to what you think of as a baby I can tell you that this little person has feelings and emotions.
    Odd thing: even minutes before his birth it would have been legal to abort him. Doing the same five minutes after his birth would constitute as murder. Who decides that this baby, when it is still in the womb, can be killed?



  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:50AM (#28837171)

    Ok, how about free morning after pills for the women who like to have sex all of the time. Abortion up to the end of the 1st trimester = Free. The the Second trimester they gots to cough up some dough for it, say 500 bucks or so.

    For the third trimester the doctor is not involved in killing the baby. The only thing the doctor does is to induce Labour. Once the fetus is delivered the mother has 10 minutes to strangle the life out of the lump of tissue with her own hands, no tools are allowed to be used. If she fails to do this she is fined 10,000 bucks or is imprisoned for 10 months. If she is rich enough to afford it she is given the prison sentence. It is taking a life, but it shouldn't be illegal, it is like a female bird tossing her eggs out of the nest. But why put the responsibility of snuffing out pre-life on some doctor, make the carrier of that life responsible for doing the deed.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"