New Stem Cell Methods

by Malc on August 21, 2009

stem-cells3-w200-h200The concerns with stem cell research came about mainly for ethical and religious reasons. These have dampened down lately. President Obama’s policy change towards federal funding of [tag-tec]stem cell[/tag-tec] research – effectively banned by his predecessor – has certainly stimulated interest in the field.

But one bright light on the horizon is the development of new methods of generating stem cells. These will not be taken from embryos.

The prime method is the use of so called ‘IPS’ cells – or induced [tag-tec]pluripotent[/tag-tec] stem cells.

These were first produced in Japan in 2007. The ‘magical’ thing about them is that they are made by taking cells which are already specialized and turning back the clock – turning them into an embyonic state. This is done by adding some chemicals – such as genes – to them.

For many of the religious this is completely acceptable to their faith; and scientists are happy too – because they can always use a person’s own cells to make their new organ or whatever – and there will therefore be no immune system rejection of the new tissues.

Research into IPS cells is still at an early stage, compared to embryonic stem cells; so embryonic stem cell work will continue for now. But once IPS cells are better understood, their use will surely predominate if not take over.

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