Nov. 19, 2009 -- Human embryonic stem cells can be used to produce skin grafts for people who have been seriously burned, shows a study published in The Lancet.Horrible. Just horrible.
Though patients have benefited from cell therapy for two decades, the techniques used have had limitations, write Hind Guenou, PhD, of INSERM and the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy and Exploration of Monogenic Diseases in Evry Cedex, France, and colleagues. [...]
So the scientists in this study, employing a pharmacological treatment over 40 days, seeded feeder cells with human embryonic stem cells. The treatment drives the human embryonic stem cells toward forming an epidermis, the outer layer of skin the researchers report.
The team says it was able to generate a population of cells that showed the characteristics of the epidermis. Once manipulated on an artificial surface, the cells were able to form a layer of skin, the scientists say.
In 12 weeks, after grafting it onto five mice, the skin layer that came from human embryonic stem cells had a structure the "consistent" with human skin.
I realize that burn victims suffer terribly, but there are morally acceptable ways of providing skin grafts that don't require us to cannibalize tiny human beings.
Worse, of course, is that unless I'm greatly mistaken this technology may quite conceivably open the door to a future nightmare of cosmetic treatments involving the growing of new skin cells to replace old, wrinkly ones.
Perhaps in some future PETA paradise we'll stop covering furniture, making shoes etc. with leather, and make these things from human embryo-skin hides instead. We might even take a tip from our philosophical inspiration and make lampshades...