Adult Stem Cells Yield More Promise
Special Report - September 12, 2008
In yet another example of the increasing promise of adult stem cell research and the lack of need for destructive embryonic stem cell research, Harvard biologists recently reported a new breakthrough in regenerative medicine. Dr. Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Dr. Kevin Eggan, and postdoctoral fellow Qiao “Joe” Zhou released details of their experiments in the August 27 issue of the online journal Nature. By making three crucial molecular switches, they transformed one type of fully developed adult cell into another type of cell inside a living mouse. Specifically, a common pancreatic cell was converted into a more precious insulin-producing pancreatic cell. The “direct reprogramming” technique has many scientists hoping for treatments for diabetes, heart disease, strokes, spinal cord injuries, neurodegenerative disorders, and more. The ability to reprogram cells within people could eliminate the need for drugs, transplants, and other therapies. The technique also eliminates the intermediary step of converting adult stem cells into “induced pluripotent stem cells,” which possess characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells, before coaxing them into a new type of cell. According to researchers, it is an easier and more practical direct re-purposing of adult cells.
To date, over 70 diseases are being treated as a result of adult stem cell research and discovery. Numerous cancers including brain tumors, ovarian, testicular, lymphoma, leukemia, and breast are being successfully treated with therapies resulting from adult stem cell research. Additionally, new treatments of diseases including Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, and sickle cell anemia are the result of adult stem cell research. This newest scientific discovery could dramatically increase both the number and breadth of treatments available for even more circumstances.
“With these continued advances, researchers would do well to focus their energy on adult stem cell research and abandon embryonic stem cell research. Research conducted on non-controversial sources of stem cells have produced treatments and care for over 60 human ailments, while embryonic stem cell research has produced none,” according to Matt Lytle, director of research for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The importance of finding treatments and cures should move researchers to focus their efforts and funds on those methods and sources that have already yielded tangible results.”
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