Human Exceptionalism

Lead Into Gold: More on Yamanaka Continued Progress

“The scientists” have spent hundreds of millions and years trying to obtain tailor made, patient specific, pluripotent stem cells. Well, Shinya Yamanaka did it. From the story:

Skin cells from the face of 36 year old woman have been converted into her own embryonic like cells directly, in experiments that bring closer the day that doctors will not need to clone embryos to create any of a patient’s own cells and tissues for novel treatments…

By inserting four key genes into adult cells, the scientists created a form of stem cell that can grow into virtually any kind of tissue–a feat that previously required destroying embryos to extract cells. The discovery may clear a path for researchers to produce stem cells more easily and without embryo destruction, which is bitterly opposed by pro life groups. But one of the genes the Japanese team used in the new method is also an oncogene, meaning it has been linked with certain types of cancer. And although a rival American group in Wisconsin avoided using that gene, they used cells from a newborn rather than an adult.

Now the Japanese team led by Prof Shinya Yamanaka and colleagues at Kyoto University show in the journal Nature Biotechnology how to convert adult human skin cells into cells that resemble embryonic stem cells without using the tumour-causing gene c-Myc…

Scientists still need to devise ways to transform adult into embryo cells without the need for viruses, which are currently used to introduce the genes to reprogramme the cells and can in theory disrupt other genes.

Work yet to do, to be sure, but very good news indeed.

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