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Non-Embryonic Stem Cells Developed From Skin Cells

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the won't-somebody-think-of-the-epidermis dept.

Biotech 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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"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

Mike Dav. Kristopeit (1905334) | about 4 years ago | (#33763946)

are they identical or not?

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (4, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33763982)

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

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764010)

Either way, as I am no longer an embryo, these advances seem relevant for therapies using stem cells which may be developed by the time I'm old and need them.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33764142)

Either way, as I am no longer an embryo, these advances seem relevant for therapies using stem cells which may be developed by the time I'm old and need them.

Yes, this. And it never would have happened without all the uproar/dissent over the embryonic stem cells. People were hoping all along that it would be possible to continue this research without creating a market for human offspring, and it seems steps are being taken in that direction.

It's a good day for anyone but the pro-abortion crowd. (And yes, I mean pro-abortion vs merely pro-choice, as in the industry profiting by the practice and its allies.)

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | about 4 years ago | (#33764364)

It's a good day for anyone but the pro-abortion crowd. (And yes, I mean pro-abortion vs merely pro-choice, as in the industry profiting by the practice and its allies.)

Of course pro-choice and pro-abortion are the same thing. Ya know, I just can't seem to hold myself back from committing abortion. I see pregnant women all the time and just hope and pray that they get abortions

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33764434)

I know you're being flippant, but the pro-abortion lobby does in fact exist. They're glommed on to women's rights pretty bad, but logic starts to fail when we consider that half of those fetuses they're hoping to kill are likewise female.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

alta (1263) | about 4 years ago | (#33764580)

Like the Discovery Channel terrorist? He fits that camp.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33765044)

No there isn't. But hey a group of uneducated and ignorant people are telling you what to believe. feel fro to take what they say and swallow it with question.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | about 4 years ago | (#33764558)

I have met a few people who really are pro-abortion. They told me that abortion is always preferable to giving birth. They were not being sarcastic. Sadly, there seem to be more people out there who are so rabidly anti-abortion (as opposed to being pro-life) that they are willing to commit murder.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about 4 years ago | (#33764492)

Except that embryonic stem cell lines typically come from discarded in vitro embryos, not abortion. So really you're just going to see the tissue discarded instead of being used for medical research. Not that this is really any worse, but it isn't significantly better as you seem to believe.

Still, in my mind, the notion of true embryonic stem cell research always seemed... well, nuts, to put it mildly. You're talking about taking cells from one organism and trying to use them to repair/replace tissue in another organism. Yes, we've come a long way when it comes to anti-rejection drugs, but at some point you really have to step back and say to yourself, "There must be a more rational way to proceed."

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764570)

Yes, this. And it never would have happened without all the uproar/dissent over the embryonic stem cells.

Non sequitur. History shows tons of examples where we developped artificial replacements for natural materials even when no one had any ethical problems with the natural version. They're often cheaper, easier to mass-produce, avoid natural scarcity and are easier to quality-control. I'm pretty sure we would have gotten their, possibly just as soon, even if no-one made a stink about embryonic stem cells.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33764674)

History likewise shows numerous examples of people dieing. This doesn't mean that tacos often kill.

That's a non sequitur.

Otherwise, we're just bandying about our opinions, aren't we?

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Insightful)

Gerzel (240421) | about 4 years ago | (#33764874)

Except embryo's are not human offspring and the majority never could be.

There are far more in cold storage than could ever possibly be brought to term. They are just collections of human genetic material with the potential for growth into human life IF they are implanted into a womb and are successfully brought to term. Even then once born then what? There are already too many orphans in this ever more crowded world.

If they are human offspring then what of sperm and egg? Where do you draw the line? Because they joined together?

Humans have rights not because of the genetic codes in our cells but because of our individual experience, potential and the investiture of others.

They may become people only under the right conditions and for the vast majority those conditions will never come.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33765020)

False.

Scientists have been looking to to this all the time. Using waste from in vitro fertilization is a costly and time consumer process. If Bush hadn't stop federal; funding, we problem would have gotten to this point years ago.

and abortion has nothing to do with this issue. The material they use is waste from the in vitro process. so if you don't like it, start and anti-in vitro fertilization group.

No industry profits from abortion.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 4 years ago | (#33764320)

But will you trust the science & therapies based on cells that "appear to be virtually like stem cells"?

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Insightful)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33764400)

Yeah why not, and the best part is they have the same DNA as I do so it would be highly unlikely that my body would reject them.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | about 4 years ago | (#33764622)

If it means not having to take anti-rejection drugs, then yes. I do not have access to embryonic stem sells that are genetically identical to me. I don't have my cord-blood stem cells either, as I am old enough that it is a moot point. I do have skin cells a plenty ready to be harvested and grown into a new pancreas.

Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (3, Interesting)

Tekfactory (937086) | about 4 years ago | (#33764264)

If we had Embryonic stem cells say from Cord blood or some other conflict free source.

Would the biological signals work the same on them to become muscle, nerve or organ replacement tissue?

Re:Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (1)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | about 4 years ago | (#33764402)

Theoretically, I would think so.

What's the distance between an embryonic stem cell and a zygote? If we can push the development back in time from skin cell -> stem cell, can we push it back from skin cell -> zygote? And if we can, what are the moral implications of destroying that zygote?

Re:Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (1)

snowraver1 (1052510) | about 4 years ago | (#33764436)

Why don't we just scrape some eggs into a beaker and then spray them with semen? Why do we have to go through some roundabout route to get the exact same thing. Sure the pro-lifers will say "Oh, you just killed a baby!", but think about it... We are trying to make stem cells identical to these cells. If we do get there, wouldn't those created cells have the same potential for life as the cells in the egg/semen beaker, but with MUCH MUCH more expense? It seems a little crazy to me.

Re:Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764850)

By crazy, do you mean religious?

Re:Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (1)

zero_out (1705074) | about 4 years ago | (#33764854)

Why don't we just scrape some eggs into a beaker and then spray them with semen? Why do we have to go through some roundabout route to get the exact same thing. Sure the pro-lifers will say "Oh, you just killed a baby!", but think about it... We are trying to make stem cells identical to these cells. If we do get there, wouldn't those created cells have the same potential for life as the cells in the egg/semen beaker, but with MUCH MUCH more expense? It seems a little crazy to me.

Consider this for a moment. At what point does a spider plant become two distinct organisms, vs. one organism with a shoot/node? Then think about this. What defines an organism? Is it the DNA? Is it the form? What is the difference between a cell within the human body with slightly damaged DNA vs. a zygote? What is the difference between a zygote and a blastocyst? An embryo? A fetus? A baby? At what point are identical twins two separate organisms? How are they different than taking a cell from a morula to perform genetic testing? How is a zygote containing DNA from an adult (AKA a "clone") different from pluripotent stem cells?

I'm not trying to advance any agenda. I'm just trying to get people to ask themselves these questions, because these are key to forming a scientifically based definition of human life, and by extension, one's opinion of stem cell research and abortion, without the murkiness of emotion.

Re:Do the commands work on Embryonic cells too? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33765176)

My wife recently miscarried a pregnancy of about 7 or 8 weeks. We didn't realize it had miscarried until the first ultrasound appointment. It occurred to me that there was a fetus in there, and one that, if given a choice, we would have gladly donated the dead fetus for researching something like this. It's not as if we aborted the thing in order to do research; it died on its own. I wonder if that's a potential possible conflict free source, as you say.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (4, Interesting)

The Pirou (1551493) | about 4 years ago | (#33764056)

To quote the article:

Here we describe a simple, nonintegrating strategy for reprogramming cell fate based on administration of synthetic mRNA modified to overcome innate antiviral responses. We show that this approach can reprogram multiple human cell types to pluripotency with efficiencies that greatly surpass established protocols.

I repeat, 'GREATLY SURPASS ESTABLISHED PROTOCOLS.'

Better = Better

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33764092)

Is it better because the state of the art has simply improved past the point where embryonic stem cell research had left off?

Or is it better because somehow skin cells are better than embryonic stem cells?

My guess is the former.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Interesting)

31415926535897 (702314) | about 4 years ago | (#33764178)

I think you're right about the former, but why does that matter now? Here we are with an alternative that's better in an absolute sense (even if not in a time relative sense) than embryonic stem cells. So why not go with that and continue to improve the technology? Do we need to go back to destroying embryos to develop an inferior product?

Also, I'm not wholly convinced that it is just a matter of state-of-the-art improvement where embryonic stem cell research had left off. I think the restriction certainly catapulted this type of research, but there are still over a dozen lines of embryonic stem cells (which can still be infinitely reproduced) that were being worked on, but they did not get to this point.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33764210)

Because using the state of the art with the higher quality embryonic stem cells would put us well past the point achieved today.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (2, Insightful)

mdielmann (514750) | about 4 years ago | (#33764584)

And I would still have an immune reaction to them.
Face it, all the great things about embryonic stem cells are greatly hampered by the fact that the patient is probably going to have to take anti-rejection drugs. Adult stem cells from the patient won't have this problem.
Even if embryonic stem cells had been kept at state of the art, we would still have this problem, and this problem has been examined since transplants began.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

abigor (540274) | about 4 years ago | (#33764410)

Embryos are "destroyed" all the time via miscarriages, in vitro fertilisation and abortion. The "think of the embryos" argument only makes sense if you have some kind of religious belief about these things, in which case you should be kept far away from any science-based decision making anyway.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#33764474)

Is there any evidence that stem cells have ever been harvested from an embryo which A) was created explicitly for the purpose of harvesting said stem cells or B) Stood any chance of every being implanted into a womb. I suspect that the answer to A is that the embryos were all the 'leftovers' from fertility treatments and the answer to B is that the fertility treatments were terminated (either because of success or giving up) and they would probably have been destroyed or at best remained frozen indefinitely. So... what are we all arguing about again? The embryos already existed and they were already destined to never become a human life.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764594)

Yes, and people die all the time too, that doesn't mean that creating industries which require fresh corpses is a humane thing to do*. Religion aside, we (nearly) all agree that killing another person is (almost always) wrong. If we accept that the fetuses are also people (they are genetically human and distinct) then does not the same argument hold?

Furthermore, the applications of adult stem cells as therapies seem to be a better place to go for the simple fact that these therapies use the bodies own cells and thus transplant rejection is less of an issue.

* Burial and cremation services aside as their purpose is to soothe the family and dispose of the corpse.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (3, Informative)

ubermiester (883599) | about 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

nmos (25822) | about 4 years ago | (#33765234)

I think you guys are mis-reading that (or I am). I took it to mean that this method of CONVERTING skin cells to be more like embryonic stem cells is more effective than previous methods of CONVERSION. I don't think they were saying that these new cells are more effective treatments than embryonic stem cells.

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764242)

Because you can make your own skin cells but likely not your own embryonic stem cells, I wonder if this method would be less prone to result in tissue rejection (assuming the donor and host are the same, of course.)

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

Mike Dav. Kristopeit (1905334) | about 4 years ago | (#33764404)

not identical =/= identical =/= virtually identical

Re:"appear"... "virtually"? (1)

Mike Dav. Kristopeit (1905334) | about 4 years ago | (#33764658)

greatly surpass established protocols.... IN FAILURE =/= better

you put too much faith in marketeers playing scientist.

Morph? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33763972)

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

Re:Morph? (2, Informative)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 4 years ago | (#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?

They still have to take living tissue (-1, Flamebait)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33763990)

The great thing about using stem cells from fetii is that for the brief time that they are taking the cells, the fetus is still biologically alive, so the stem cells taken are extremely high quality.

Skin cells cannot be taken without pain to the patient. Since it requires that the skin cells themselves be fresh and alive, the patient much undergo some pain while the cells are extracted.

We have so many fetii who will ultimately be thrown out with the rest of the biomedical waste. Why waste them when they could save lives? Religious extremists are forcing us to waste time finding workarounds to their ridiculous anti-science/anti-medicine policies.

On a side note, I'm worried that these policies will become stricter come November when the Tea Party looks likely to make significant inroads in Congress.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (4, Insightful)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | about 4 years ago | (#33764130)

This new technique isn't a workaround. It's an important step to fulfilling the ultimate potential of stem cell therapy. Something like this skin-cell technique will be necessary for the creation of truly effective stem cell treatments. Stem cells formed from the patient's own tissue will prevent a host of rejection-related problems. Stem cells from an embryo have a different genotype and thus can cause more rejection issues.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764778)

None of this matters. If you aren't grinding up babies, then it is useless to the Democrat agenda. We need to make abortion more acceptable, and if you cannot make use of the dead babies in some positive way, then killing babies would become less desireable. If we cannot find a use for the piles of dead children, then people might begin to look at us with less then entheusasm. Sure, we could always go back to the school lunch mystery meat program, but some in the party have, for unknown reasons, been less than happy with that idea.

-1 Flamebait... (1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33764168)

I never would have taken the Slashdot moderators as anti-science crusaders.

Guess I know better now!

Re:-1 Flamebait... (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 4 years ago | (#33764260)

They are not, and your post was still flamebait. You don't have to drag politics into every subject.

Re:-1 Flamebait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764280)

The "omg Tea Party!" reference was a little gratuitous.

Re:-1 Flamebait... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 4 years ago | (#33764406)

Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do something. Just because you think it is okay, doesn't make it so. Sociopaths have no problem doing all sorts of things, doesn't mean they should.

And if ethics isn't part of the discussion of the meaning of life, and treatment of the defenseless, then we're lost to a society of might makes right.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33764190)

All great points.

What I like about this tech is that you can skip the step of creating the embryo. You have to have sperm and egg to create an embryo, no? That seems that that could be a road block from a technical standpoint for some - getting genetically compatible sperm and egg - or doesn't that matter?

..

On a side note, I'm worried that these policies will become stricter come November when the Tea Party looks likely to make significant inroads in Congress.

People are hypocrites. Wait until they're sick - then they'll be running all over the World in their Medicare paid scooters trying techniques to save their old fat asses - including new born baby soup if they have to - with their Social Security money.

People love forcing others to live up to their ideals but when it comes to themselves, well, all bets are off - like these pro-lifers [direct.ca] who get abortions.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33764694)

I take exeption to both "pro-life" and "pro-choice". Both are disingenuous. If you are for capital punishment, as most "pro life" conservatives are, you're hardly "pro-life". It's simply a lie.

Likewise, most of the "pro-choice" people are for anti-drug laws. If it's a woman's right to remove a fetus, why isn't it her right to inject herself with heroin? Anyone truly pro-choice would be against all drug laws.

Personally, I'm both pro-choice and anti-abortion. I'm against abortion, but I believe it should be between the fetus' parents and doctors. And if you want to fuck your life up with heroin, that's none of my business.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (1)

operagost (62405) | about 4 years ago | (#33764966)

Whether the pro-life crowd is hypocritical or not is irrelevant to the moral dilemma. Arguing for the free destruction of embryos in the name of science because the opponents may occasionally violate their own public beliefs is just an ad hominem.

To put it another way, nearly everyone believes that speed limits on highways are a good idea, but nearly every driver also speeds from time to time.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764564)

Completely besides the point.

Your skin --> your stem cells --> tailor made treatments for you.

You can't do that with embryonic stem cells unless you clone yourself and make a you-embryo.

Re:They still have to take living tissue (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#33764568)

Unless I'm mistaken (and I could very well be, if I am please correct me) there may be tissue rejection issues with embryonic stem cells, but if it's your own cells that are used, that is no longer a problem.

One thing I'm not mistaken about -- embryonic stem cells don't come from fetuses. They come from embryos.

Since it requires that the skin cells themselves be fresh and alive, the patient much undergo some pain while the cells are extracted.

You've never heard of local anesthetics?

I'm worried that these policies will become stricter come November when the Tea Party looks likely to make significant inroads in Congress.

Somehow I doubt they will.

Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (3, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33764004)

I thought one of the huge advantages of embryonic stem cells was that, once gathered, they could effectively be reproduced or cloned or something indefinitely without the need to gather more. Is that the case with these new cells? Or am I completely off base in the first place?

Re:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (3, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 years ago | (#33764258)

Theoretically, both adult and embryonic stem cells can be reproduced indefinitely.

Re:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (2, Informative)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 4 years ago | (#33764512)

(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.

Re:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (2, Informative)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | about 4 years ago | (#33764554)

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:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 4 years ago | (#33764804)

I believe you're reading too much out of a single line. If the cell's maintaining its undifferentiated state, then you can easily show that it'd be able to divide itself indefinitely. I'm not a biologist or a physician, but I'm pretty sure that, at this point, we still don't know much about what could happen in either embryonic or adult stem cells after a lot of divisions as part of a therapy.

Re:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 4 years ago | (#33764270)

Yes - that is the case with these new cells. They are made pluripotent - able to be reprogrammed into many other types of cells.

These advances from skin cells (& fat and a few others...) have the awesome benefit of matching the donor's DNA (not true with embryonic - thus it's likely to have rejection issues with something like new organs).

It also allows (in most cases) for us to avoid that sketchy issue of how many living human cells crosses the threshold into human life (inheriting inalienable human rights). (Or how many types interacting, or whether you need nerves, or brain stem, heartbeat, etc...)

Re:Can They Be Reproduced Indefinitely? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764634)

One drawback of embryonic stem cells is in every actual real world medical use, on animals and the one or two humans they've been tried on (in China, for instance), they have developed into tumors, grown uncontrollably and killed the patient. Adult Stem Cells are safer, by far, and have been used in every successful medical use to date.

science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764012)

'developing a less controversial approach'

Thank fuck for science.

Number of trials (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764132)

I do not have the exact details but the last time I checked there was one trial for embryonic stem cells registered with the FDA, and it was still in the planning stages. There are many more (I seem to remember the number being around 1900) drug trials ongoing with using adult stem cells. Several of these drug trials are very promising. I am interested in the one showing promise against Parkinsons since a family member has this. In that case the results are not a "promise" that might someday materialize but are documented and present. No one is claiming these studies show a therapy that is ready for the market today but they show improvement that is statistically significant. They are also not in the planning phase but actively in drug trials.

Additionally many of them are funded by private money. It would seem to me that private investors are looking for a drug that will work (and presumably pay back their investment.) So I am always happy to see new research on this. I am just confused why people are pushing for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. (Unless those pushing for it are the ones who would get the funding, and then there is a potential conflict of interest.)

Re:Number of trials (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#33764282)

The 1900 to 1 ratio does not hold in countries where funding for embryonic stem cell research has been withheld and the very legality of it seriously questioned in some circles. If the government thinks that it is wrong enough to withhold funding it isn't a stretch to worry about whether or not it might someday become illegal alltogether. Withholding funding for flimsy ethical reasoning had a chilling effect on the research in general.

Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (-1, Redundant)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33764134)

Then you'll love this new technique.

These are not as good as stem cells from embryos.

The funny thing about all the anti-science religious freaks is no matter what solution you come up with, they'll find something to object about it - and the work will still be done somewhere in the world because scientists collaborate, so you're not "stopping" stem cell research using embryonic stem cells no matter how much you think it stops that.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (2, Insightful)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | about 4 years ago | (#33764276)

Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out?

Citation needed. You really think it will take a pound? Even allowing for hyperbole, it seems unlikely anything more than what's needed to remove a mole would be necessary.

These are not as good as stem cells from embryos.

Citation needed - as well as a definition of "better." There's no simple binary comparision to be made here. Many factors contribute, such as efficacy, cost, and complication rate. I'm sure there are some things embryonic stem cells will be "better" for, but there are likely many things derived stem cells will be better for. They don't have nearly as many issues with tissue rejection, for starters.

The funny thing about all the anti-science religious freaks is no matter what solution you come up with, they'll find something to object about it

Really? Which ones object to this?

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33764466)

read . the. actual. scientific. paper . on . which . this . is . based.

There's your answer. I did - on ScienceDirect. If you're an alumni of anywhere you can get similar access.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33764754)

If you're an alumni of anywhere you can get similar access.

I read ScienceDirect's help file, but I failed to figure out how Elsevier expects me to prove that I have graduated from Rose-Hulman.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33764848)

go into your college/university library then. Use the terminals there.

Paywalls and people who live far from alma mater (1)

tepples (727027) | about 4 years ago | (#33764986)

go into your college/university library then. Use the terminals there.

Does this work even if the university close to where I currently live isn't the same university I graduated from?

Re:Paywalls and people who live far from alma mate (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33765064)

usually - most colleges will honor an alumni card from another university for research library journal usage

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 4 years ago | (#33764830)

Way to dodge the question, heh.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33764938)

It's a very long answer. And it's actually in the paper.

You're new to this, aren't you?

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764360)

Right. The people whose job it is to complain can still complain, the people who have to research can still research, and the people who need tissue will still get their tissue.

The system works, I guess. :)

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about 4 years ago | (#33764374)

Dude, if they can simply side-step a massive social issue that was holdup research, then more the power to them. Honestly, I'm pissed that Bush got elected on the backs of dead babies.

The funny thing about all the anti-science religious freaks is no matter what solution you come up with, they'll find something to object about it

Yes, but the freaks are freaks. They're beyond hope. But this whole abortion thing got people like aunt Bev, a life-long democrat, to vote for someone who had completely opposite views then her, other then this one issue.
If you can make stem cells without the abortion thing, then the majority of that social pressure will be removed.
Remember, society is a bell curve.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (4, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 4 years ago | (#33764538)

I'm pro science. I think everyone should be doing nuclear experiments in their basement like the http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html [slashdot.org] "> Nuclear Boy Scout. After all, everyone trying to prevent him from experimenting is just plain anti science.

Or is it that all science needs boundaries and you just disagree with where that boundary has been set?

Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they are "anti science". Though throwing the whole "Anti" tag on things seems like common way to be dismissive without actually making any soft of point. Which makes you as bad as the Christian Fundies. Maybe worse, because at least they don't pretend to be logical.

Re:Got a pound of flesh? Like it being ripped out? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 years ago | (#33764828)

Like I said, the research goes on anyway.

No matter how the fundies try to shut it down.

Special Slashdot Memo #8757747 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764220)

Due to "National Security" reasons, I need about 12 President-VICE Richard B. Cheney lookalikes.

Can these lookalikes be cloned from my skin?

Please forward your answers to :

Richard B. Cheney, President-VICE
Number One Naval Observatory Circle
Washington, D.C., 20007

Criminally As Always,
President-VICE Richard B. Cheney [firedoglake.com]

And in addition... (1)

Mysticeti (69304) | about 4 years ago | (#33764284)

11 more "man-size" safes.

telomere tail? (2, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | about 4 years ago | (#33764338)

I wonder though, if they don't find a way to lengthen the telomere tail on the cell's dna, it's age won't be reset. You can't just take anyone's skin cells and make stem cells from them, if they're older generation cells the telomere tail will be short and the cell culture's lifespan will also be short.

Re:telomere tail? (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 4 years ago | (#33764484)

For the sake of those of us that work with silicon instead of carbon what precisely would be the downfall of this? It was my understanding that cells have essentially a programed lifespan but as these cells age they split thus producing their replacement which lives out its lifespan, rinse repeat...

Re:telomere tail? (1)

publiclurker (952615) | about 4 years ago | (#33764582)

I work with bits instead of carbon goo, but I think there would be a problem if the cells used for gene therapy were to wear out too early. I would imagine that getting the cells to reproduce rapidly in order to use them would take up some of the existing telomers.

Re:telomere tail? (1)

zero_out (1705074) | about 4 years ago | (#33764944)

The telomere tail is kind of like the photocopy degradation. As cells split, these tails grow shorter and shorter. Eventually, the DNA becomes a bit wacky, unstable, and dangerous. When a cell splits, both resultant cells are slightly degraded from the previous state. It's like making two photocopies (generation 2) of a document, then throwing away the original (generation 1). Then you make two copies (generation 3) of each copy, and throw away the previous ones (generation 2). Repeat several thousand times.

Re:telomere tail? (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 years ago | (#33764600)

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.

or maybe not (1)

slew (2918) | about 4 years ago | (#33764648)

Or maybe induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells which are reprogrammed, acquire more telomere transcripts which elongate the telomeres... Or maybe not... Who really knows for sure...

http://www.cell.com/cell-stem-cell/abstract/S1934-5909(09)00002-2 [cell.com]

Summary
Telomere shortening is associated with organismal aging. iPS cells have been recently derived from old patients; however, it is not known whether telomere chromatin acquires the same characteristics as in ES cells. We show here that telomeres are elongated in iPS cells compared to the parental differentiated cells both when using four (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4, cMyc) or three (Oct3/4, Sox2, Klf4) reprogramming factors and both from young and aged individuals. We demonstrate genetically that, during reprogramming, telomere elongation is usually mediated by telomerase and that iPS telomeres acquire the epigenetic marks of ES cells, including a low density of trimethylated histones H3K9 and H4K20 and increased abundance of telomere transcripts. Finally, reprogramming efficiency of cells derived from increasing generations of telomerase-deficient mice shows a dramatic decrease in iPS cell efficiency, a defect that is restored by telomerase reintroduction. Together, these results highlight the importance of telomere biology for iPS cell generation and functionality.

Re:telomere tail? (1)

nashv (1479253) | about 4 years ago | (#33764680)

Except of course, telomeres are shortened with each division, because as cells age and approach the so called "Hayflick limit" [wikipedia.org] of about 45 divisions, they stop producing the enzyme telomerase [wikipedia.org] , which extends telomeres. Cancer cells produce telomerase in substantial quantities, and thus can divide ad infinitum.

The reprogramming done to produce stem cells is very high-up in the genetic control hierarchy, and likely also causes them to keep producing the telomerase. This is precisely why 1 fertilized zygote can actually reach a whole organism without banging against the Hayflick limit. In fact, telomerase production is one of the markers of being a "stem cell".

Victim of Language? (5, Informative)

WeatherGod (1726770) | about 4 years ago | (#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?

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 4 years ago | (#33764388)

True it does refer to the life cycle of the cells but at the same time there is really only one source for embryonic stem cells, which is human embryos.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

WeatherGod (1726770) | about 4 years ago | (#33764774)

Let me put it a little bit differently. Is there a general lack of controversy around adult stem cells because of the name? Note, I am referring only to public opinion, which is composed mostly those who are not knowledgeable on the subject and have not thought more than five seconds about the subject. It is a completely different story when we talk about those who actively debate, ponder upon, and inform themselves with information on the topic. Semantic differences are relatively unimportant to them (regardless of their opinion on the matter).

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 4 years ago | (#33764414)

I supposed blastocystic stem cells is too hard to say, otherwise you might be on to something.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 4 years ago | (#33764908)

I supposed blastocystic stem cells is too hard to say, otherwise you might be on to something.

Same number of syllables. You could even abbreviate it to "blasto-stem cells" which would be popular with the video game crowd. If we could only come up with something that sounds litugical to make it popular with the fundos.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

WeatherGod (1726770) | about 4 years ago | (#33764990)

True, and it is probably better to leave out the "cystic" part of the name anyway, as it has a negative connotation.

Re:Victim of Language? (3, Insightful)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 4 years ago | (#33764690)

No, the problem of embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells is with ESCs you must destroy a (potential) life, while you can harmlessly remove ASCs from just about anyone. The debate is either "the ends justify the means" or "right to life starts at point X", not a misunderstanding of the terms embryo/zygote.

(I'm just clarifying where the lines are commonly drawn, I'm not interested in yet another "lets flame at each other and get nowhere" "debate")

Re:Victim of Language? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33764816)

One remove my sperm harmlessly from themselves all the time. One removes eggs harmlessly from themselves at least one a month.

Embryo is NOT the beginning of human life. Nor it is the end. It is one of the steps along the route. Of course the naive people label it as "beginning".

Finally, if you want to argue about "chicken and egg", clearly the chicken evolved from a non-chicken first, then it laid an egg. But whatever. I guess it is OK to destroy hundreds of embryos and murder people left and right, but God forbid, you make combine an egg and sperm in a lab and harvest 4 cells!!

Re:Victim of Language? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33765040)

Of course an embryo isn't the beginning of a human's life; humans start as a zygote.

Also I think you'll find that people who aren't Ok with destroying embryos are also the same who aren't ok with combining eggs and sperm and harvesting it.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

WeatherGod (1726770) | about 4 years ago | (#33764840)

Right, to you and me, this is where the lines are drawn. But I am talking about the kinds of people that you in Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segment. The kinds of people who can not be bothered with any in-depth analysis of the topic because they have too much other stuff to deal with. Specifically, is there an issue with "first impressions" setting the tenor of a person's stance?

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 4 years ago | (#33765088)

... and these are the same people who won't see the difference between a zygote and embryo. I don't expect they'll change their minds with a 5 minute science lesson (of course they'd either ignore the lesson, or get confused and agree with you because you sound smart, so I expect it's a moot point). Now, many of these people have flimsy morals (they're pro-abortion, but only if they don't have to see the baby's heartbeat on the ultrasound, or they're against ESC research unless it's their kid dying in the hospital), so trying to get a true answer might not be a viable task.

Re:Victim of Language? (4, Insightful)

bflong (107195) | about 4 years ago | (#33764792)

For those that believe that a human life begins at conception, there is no moral difference between an embryo and a zygote.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33765084)

It's a product of neo-cons needing to fester rage.

Not only are the Zygote, there zygotes that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Re:Victim of Language? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 4 years ago | (#33765226)

The problem is that some people seem to think the embryos that give you embryonic stem cells are little babies when they're actually blobs of cells sitting in petrie dishes at fertility clinics that are going to be thrown in the incinerator anyway.

Lack of the correct emphasis (3, Informative)

nashv (1479253) | about 4 years ago | (#33764534)

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.

Now if only... (1)

djlemma (1053860) | about 4 years ago | (#33764628)

If only they could figure out how to use these stem cells to do something truly useful... like growing hair on bald men, enlarging penises, extending eyelashes, or inflating boobs.

Or perhaps they might finally find a cure for the dreaded RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) which has been giving me so many nightmares!

Controversial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33765252)

I don't even see why stem cells were controversial in the first place. They acted like they were ripping babies out of pregnant women, which obviously wasn't the case.

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