Sunday :: Mar 26, 2006

Working With Stem Cells Takes A Lot Of Balls

by pessimist

The stem cell debate is about to take on a new character, for the reason the debate exists at all may be completely obliterated:

Cell find may cut use of human embryos
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

Scientists are already investigating the use of stem cells from early human embryos for a wide range of treatments because they are able to multiply endlessly and to recreate all 200 basic cell types in the body.

This would avoid the technical and ethical difficulties associated with generating stem cells from human embryos, which has been bitterly opposed by the pro-life movement.

So what is this wonder cure? This marvelous new development?

Mice cells, stem cells share similarities: scientists

Professor Gerd Hasenfuss and his colleagues said in a report published online by the journal Nature they isolated the sperm-producing stem cells from mice testes. The cells, which they call multi-potent adult germline stem cells (maGSCs), acted like embryonic stem cells under certain conditions.
When the researchers injected the cells into early embryos, they found the cells contributed to the development of different organs.

Detouring back to the first linked article:

[T]he testis cells are remarkably flexible: capable of forming all three "germ layers" - the basic three cellular layers, ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm - from which the body's organs and tissues develop.

They show another crucial property of embryonic stem cells: when injected into mice that lack an immune system, the cells grow into teratomas, tumours formed of a blend of all different types.

And, when the cells were blended with those of an early mouse embryo, they were found to contribute to many tissues, such as heart, brain and spleen, in the mice that were born.

Prof Hasenfuss, Dr Kaomei Guan and colleagues propose that these cells, which may be extracted from men using a simple testicular biopsy, could provide an alternative source of stem cells for growing brain or heart cells to treat a male patient that would not trigger any immune reaction.

Returning to the second linked article:

Dr Stephen Minger, a stem cell biologist at King's College in London, describes the findings as "pretty amazing" but says more research is needed. "We would need to replicate this in humans, just because it works in a mouse doesn't necessarily mean it will also work in people," he said. If it is possible to isolate the cells in humans and show that they work, it would give scientists another source of stem cells for research.

And that just might be the last straw for the opposition to stem cell research.

Now - if we could only do something about the rising costs of medical care, ...

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