Induced Stem Cells as Potent as Embryonic

Researchers in China have shown that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are as powerful as embryonic stem cells while avoiding their ethical problems.

Scientists in Shanghai and Beijing revealed July 23 they had created live mice from the skin cells of adult animals after reprogramming the cells into an embryonic-like state, The Washington Post reported. Their research produced at least one hundred first-generation mice and hundreds of second-generation ones that were almost genetic matches for mice from which the iPS cells were extracted, according to The Post.

"This clearly says for the first time that iPS cells pass the most stringent test," said Konrad Hochedlinger, a Harvard University stem cell researcher, the newspaper reported.

The research is good news, and potentially bad news, a Southern Baptist bioethicist said.

"These experiments continue to demonstrate that the destruction of embryos is unnecessary to retrieve stem cells," said C. Ben Mitchell, Graves professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. "So, in that sense, this is good news. And we can make all the mice we want using the procedure.

"The problems arise when these findings are applied to human research," said Mitchell, who is a consultant for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "It would be unethical to subject human embryos to potentially deadly experiments just to see if they work. The only ethical justification for experimenting on an unborn human being is for that person's own good."

Many scientists have promoted embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), because stem cells from embryos are pluripotent, meaning they can transform into any cell or tissue in the body. ESCR, however, not only has failed to provide any therapies for human subjects, but it has been plagued by the development of tumors in lab animals.

With the publication of these studies in the journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell, iPS cells have been confirmed also to be pluripotent. Unlike ESCR, harvesting iPS cells does not harm the donor.

Baptist Press



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