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Biotech Medicine Science

Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Developed From Skin Cells 175

juliangamble writes "Scientists reported Thursday they had developed a technique that can quickly create safe alternatives to human embryonic stem cells, a major advance toward developing a less controversial approach for treating a host of medical problems. The researchers published a series of experiments showing they can use laboratory-made versions of naturally occurring biological signals to quickly convert ordinary skin cells into cells that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells. Moreover, the same strategy can then coax those cells to morph into specific tissues that would be a perfect match for transplantation into patients."
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Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Developed From Skin Cells

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  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday October 01, 2010 @03:41PM (#33763982) Homepage Journal

    No, they are not identical. Several clinical hurdles ahve been passed, and it is clearly in improvement. But no, not identical.

  • Re:Morph? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Abstrackt ( 609015 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @03:51PM (#33764106)

    I get the feeling these guys have been playing waaaay too much Starcraft 2.

    Actually, "morph" is a pretty common term when you're talking biology.

    Side note: if they said "transform" would they have been watching too much Michael Bay?

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:02PM (#33764258)
    Theoretically, both adult and embryonic stem cells can be reproduced indefinitely.
  • Victim of Language? (Score:5, Informative)

    by WeatherGod ( 1726770 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:10PM (#33764350)

    While, I welcome any and all advances in the field of stem cells, I often wonder if the controversy around embryonic stem cells is mostly a product of language. As I understand it, the names "embryonic" and "adult" refers to where in the life-cycle of the stem cell it is in. It does not describe the source of the cells. Notice that even babies can have adult stem cells.

    In cloud physics, there is a concept of a embryonic cloud drop. It is merely a label for a cloud droplet at the beginning of its life cycle, before it grows or evaporates.

    So, are many people having problems with embryonic stem cells because they believe that it comes from an embryo instead of a zygote? Would public opinion be different if people understood this distinction? Would they care?

  • by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:24PM (#33764512) Journal
    (Last I heard) Yes and no. Your chromosomes have telomeres on the end- basically a timer. Each time the chromosome is replicated, the telomeres shorten, so eventually the chromosome cannot replicate any longer. Embryonic stem cells and cancerous cells are alike in that they get around this (an enzyme telomerase at least has a role with ESCs). It may be the case that researchers have found a way to make adult stem cells replicate without telomere shortening while avoiding cancer-inducing qualities, but it would be more complicated than simply letting ESCs do their thing.

    Regardless, they're basically trying to turn cells into a benevolent cancer, so research like this that helps us understand how the cells morph into different types is helpful no matter whether ESCs or ASCs win out in the end.

    NB: I only know so much about this, so if you can explain better/correct me, feel free to post a +5 informative.
  • by ubermiester ( 883599 ) * on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:25PM (#33764520)

    Do we need to go back to destroying embryos to develop an inferior product?

    Why keep repeating the myth that embryos are "destroyed"? Most of the embryos are frozen zygotes created by artificial insemination. They are frozen in case they are needed by a couple having trouble conceiving, then donated because they are no longer needed for whatever reason. No one is walking into a research center and saying "take this baby out of me and use it for science". The word "destroy" is used by anti-abortion types to falsely imply that people are aborting their children so some mad scientist can do experiments with mutant monkeys or whatever.

    There is no evidence that fewer babies are born because of the use of embryonic stem cells. The cells would have been discarded without any purpose, so isn't that worse than putting them to some good use?

  • by nashv ( 1479253 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:25PM (#33764534) Homepage

    This isn't new, except for the part that says quickly.

    Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPS cells) [wikipedia.org] have been around for at least 4 years now [eurekalert.org]

    These guys are short-cutting the process of DNA makes RNA makes Protein, by directly providing the required mRNA, rather than inserting new required genes into adult somatic cells and then waiting for them to make the RNA and transform, as was done before.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:26PM (#33764554) Homepage Journal
    That's not what I've read. From their respective wikipedia articles:

    Embryonic stem cells: [wikipedia.org]
    "Additionally, under defined conditions, embryonic stem cells are capable of propagating themselves indefinitely."
    Adult stem cells: [wikipedia.org]
    "Self-renewal which is the ability to go through numerous cycles of cell division while still maintaining its undifferentiated state." (emphasis mine)

    So, it seems that while embryonic stem cells can reproduce indefinitely, adult stems cells can reproduce numerous times, but not indefinitely. Sure, maybe that number that numerous implies is very high, but that is still distinctly different than indefinitely. That's why I asked the question in the first place... Even one of the doctors in the article talks about how embryonic stem cells are still necessary for research purposes due to their unique traits (I am wagering one of those traits is their reproducibility).
  • Re:telomere tail? (Score:3, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday October 01, 2010 @04:30PM (#33764600) Journal
    Telomerase [wikipedia.org] does exactly that. A lot of work and discovery has been done in this area since 1973, I would suggest anyone who has an interest to at least read the relevant areas in wikipedia and clear up some misconceptions.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.