As I posted last Wednesday, scientists have Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS) to generate patient- and disease- specific stem cells. (Pluripotent means that the cells are capable of developing into any type of body tissue.)
Leading scientists are telling us that they can pursue the most promising stem cell research without using–much less killing–human embryos. This breakthrough enables researchers to create human embryonic stem cells directly from adult cells. In fact, the new method may actually prove superior to embryo-destructive alternatives. This is the biggest stem cell advance since James Thomson became the first scientist to isolate embryonic stem cells, less than a decade ago.
It is a new study by Thomson himself that has caused the present stir, but this time Thomson is not alone. Accounts of independent research by two separate teams of scientists were published on November 20–one in the journal Cell and one in the journal Science–documenting the production of pluri-potent human stem cells without using embryos or eggs or cloning or any morally questionable method at all.
The new technique is so promising that on November 16, Ian Wilmut announced that he would no longer seek to clone humans. Wilmut, you may remember, is the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep. He recently sought and received a license from the British government to attempt to clone human embryos for research purposes. Now, citing the new technique, he has abandoned his plans.
Here’s what’s important:
The new technique produces patient-specific stem cells with all the benefits of stem cells from embryos, but without the production and destruction of human embryos or the use of human eggs.
Ryan Anderson explains how
Having political leaders of principle who insist on ethical standards in scientific research, then, is always of the utmost importance.
Go read it all.