Stem cell breakthrough

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

A recent discovery in stem cell research is no minor event: researchers have figured out how to reprogram adult cells into a state that is nearly indistinguishable from that of embryonic, pluripotent stem cells. This is huge news that promises to accelerate the pace of research in the field.

The problem has always been that cells exist in distinct states. A skin cell, for instance, has one set of genes essential for its specific function activated, and other sets of genes turned off; an egg cell has different patterns of gene activation and inactivation. Just taking the DNA from a skin cell and inserting it into the egg cell isn’t necessarily going to create a functional egg cell, because genes essential for egg cells may be switched off in the skin cell DNA, and we don’t know how to specifically switch them on. The process of somatic cell nuclear transfer has been hit or miss for that reason, with very high failure rates—scientists are basically trying to make the right configuration of genes switch on by giving the nucleus a good hard kick, and hoping that something in the cells will reconfigure the pattern of gene activation into something appropriate.

What the discovery by Takahashi et al. accomplishes is to reveal how to specifically switch on the right pattern of genes for a pluripotent stem cell. They have discovered the reset button for mammalian cells: a simple trigger that puts the cells in the right state to become anything else.

Continue reading “Stem cell breakthrough” (on Pharyngula)

9 Comments

Someone, please, explain to me how Bush’s administration is getting credit for this?

http://article.nationalreview.com/?[…]YjVhYjIzMGI=

…and of course our friends at Discovery are first to chime in.

We are to believe that Bush has the insight and clarity to see that an alternative would have been discovered… unbelievable.

“““”What the discovery by Takahashi et al. accomplishes is to reveal how to specifically switch on the right pattern of genes for a pluripotent stem cell. They have discovered the reset button for mammalian cells: a simple trigger that puts the cells in the right state to become anything else.”””

Ww! ccdntl vltn blt n rst bttn. Hw cl s tht. Nw hp w dn’t hv ny gvrnmnt schls dng ths knd f wrk/dctn, snc w knw tht ntllgntly Dsgnng lf cn nly mn w r tlkng bt Crtnsm nd thrfr rlgn nd thrfr w mst nt hv ny pblc fndng fr ntllgntly Dsgnd lf.

r w nw gng t dmt tht spkng f ntllgntly dsgnd lf dsn’t hv t b rlgn nd dsn’t hv t b Gd? r d scntsts cnsdr thmslvs Gds.?

[Mr Bach is not welcome here – my posts have a minimal intelligence requirement (something around kindergarten level and above, I think) and Bach does not meet it. Goodbye. Don’t bother coming back.]

So, the leap of faith has been made…God did it. I’m surprised it took so long for some Cretin to make this the new “design” argument. Ya know…based on his years of research, data and testing the “reset” switch.

Because nothing else, of course, could explain it.

Terribly excited about this discovery. Of course already lost in the conversation is the qualification from Thompson that they believe the cells will perform the same as Embryonic stem cells. There could possibly be hang ups going forward. And just as importantly I think a complete lack of understanding that the fact this happened as quick as it did is really luck. Not detracting from the hardwork done, but I’m very surprised to find that the problem seems to be this tractable. No reason to believe before hand it wasn’t going to take 10 times as many genes to pull off.

Ah, the disemvoweler is deployed again! A choice weapon in the evolutionary wars indeed!

But on the serious side, I dig this latest development. The mere notion of destroying fertilized embryos to get choice stem cells makes me queasy. I hope this alternative avenue bears much fruit.

Best regards, apollo230

Wow, fascinating. And excellent cautions on how this is a very new and relatively crude technique, as breathtaking as it is.

And leave us not forget to give credit where credit is due for this breakthrough:

“I think President Bush deserves some credit for the exciting research into ‘alternative methods’ of deriving pluripotent cells. Had the president followed the crowd instead of leading it, most research efforts would have been devoted to trying to perfect embryonic stem cell and human cloning research-which despite copious funding have not worked out yet as scientists originally had hoped.”

Guess who said that? Wesley J. Smith, the Discovery Institute’s Senior Fellow in Bioethics.

Would a pluripotent cell have the ability to produce ALL somatic cells, just as a fertilized ova would? Would it then be a sort of clone of the original individual?

What I’m getting at is if this stem cell has such capabilities, what would be the “moral” difference between such an “embryonic-mimic” cell and an actual human zygote? Is Pat Robertson going to figure out that this has the potential to become a person, and thus destroying it in research is a form of abortion, therefore God’s going to send more terrorists?

Sorry if this is an irrelevant question, but I’m hoping someone with relevant expertise can clear this up for me

Re “Would a pluripotent cell have the ability to produce ALL somatic cells,”

I’m no expert, but to put in my two cents anyway. I wouldn’t think that would be a problem. It might (if they’re lucky) be able to produce any one type of cell. But producing an viable embryo is another matter. If nothing else, a fertilized egg is considerably larger than any other kind of cell (iirc it’s big enough to be visible, if just barely).

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on November 21, 2007 10:41 AM.

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