Friday, September 26, 2008

Something to Think About

It's looking more and more like harvesting embryonic stem cells was never necessary:
Harvard scientists yesterday reported a new way to turn adult cells into stem cells, without using harmful viruses that can cause cancer.

Using a type of virus employed in gene therapy to deliver genes to mouse cells, researchers were able to transform adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells - capable of developing into any cell in the body. That virus had not previously been used in stem cell production.

"A consequence of this is that you can now make mouse and human [stem] cells that are safer. They don't have genetic alterations, which in mouse models has been shown to be harmful, and cause cancer," said senior author Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University.

The work is the most recent in a flurry of discoveries aimed at advancing development of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which are seen as an alternative to the stem cells harvested from human embryos. Japanese researchers first reported two years ago that it was possible to create such cells by infecting adult cells with a cocktail of viruses carrying genes.

Of course, the scientists would still like to play with--and destroy--human embryos, because they stubbornly cling to their faith-based notion that these cells will magically cure disease and be much stronger and safer than the adult-cell and ethically acceptable alternative. Poor scientists--I can't imagine having such blind faith in something for which there is absolutely no evidence.

But there's never been a good reason to destroy some lives in order to save others. And it looks as though there was never any need for scientists to kill human embryos in their quest for cures to diseases. So perhaps at some point during the next president's tenure the question of using federal funds for ESCR will be a moot question, made outdated by the strides made in adult stem cell research. Of course, if Obama is the next president, the fact that embryonic stem cells aren't needed won't stop him from spending your money and mine to kill these helpless tiny humans in the name of science.

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