A new study has just been released finding that the new Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells were efficacious in alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson’s in rats. From the story:
A novel and untested stem cell therapy has significantly improved the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in rats, according to a study released Monday. Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, used a relatively new technique to re-engineer stem cells from skin cells and then treat rats with the debilitating neurological disease.
When the rats were tested weeks after the cell transplant, their Parkinson’s symptoms were significantly reduced, confirming that these substitutes for embryonic stem cells, so-called reprogrammed stem cells, can replace lost or damaged neurons.
In essence, this was therapeutic cloning without the cloning, since the cells were (rat) subject specific and tailor made from the cells of the animal, so no immune rejection:
Wernig and his colleagues took skin cells from adult mice and induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS cells) by using retroviruses to activate genes that turned them into stem cells.
The IPS cells were then differentiated into neural precursor cells and dopamine neurons using techniques originally developed in embryonic stem cells. Working with researchers at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Wernig and his colleagues grafted the lab-made dopamine neurons into rats.
IPSCs cause tumors like ESCRs, since they are pluripotent. I don’t know how many and whether tumors formed since the rats were euthanized and their brains studied at 8 weeks (further proof of the need for animal research). But in one fell swoop, IPSCs rushed past therapeutic cloning since scientists haven’t even been able yet to derive human cloned embryos and extract stem cells from them.