[Not so] Big News for Stem Cells
Ever hear if it is too good to be true, then it probably it probably is? Well that seems to be the case for the not so latest news for stem cell research.
Just weeks ago, the science world was buzzing when Japanese scientists announced that it had discovered a novel way to produce stem cells that was free of controversy, cheaper than traditional methods and simple.
By using acid to ‘shock’ adult skin cells, the group claimed that they had reverted the adult cells back to stem cells. Well, after several other groups tried [and failed] to reproduce results, the team has pulled its paper. They are not so quick to claim that they falsified data however, in a statement they suggested they wanted to determine where the error came from, if in fact, an error has been made.
It is unfortunate since this would have undoubtedly lead to several advances that stem cell research desperately needs to be viable in the near future for commercial use.
What is a stem cell anyway?
For those interested in science but are not quite sure what a stem cell actually is or what it does, let’s go over the basics.
Stem cells are cells that can turn into any other cell in the body, not too long ago they were merely theoretical, but thanks to medical advances we now know that they are very much real and offer a way to turn back the aging process, grow new body parts that would not be rejected by the recipient, and give a whole new alternative way to treat diseases.
Where do they come from?
Stem cells [as of now] come from two different ways, the destruction of fertilized embryos, or using different scientific methods to take adult stem cells and change them back into stem cells.
Obviously the destruction of embryos route has provided a lot of controversy, especially for religious people, since they typically believe that life starts at conception. This route has been the most successful unfortunately and there have been laws limiting government funding for research with stem cells made from embryos until the Obama administration removed the restriction.
The adult stem cell route seems like it would be the better choice since it is controversy free, even if it cost more. This route has it’s own set of drawbacks unfortunately, they have had several issues with the stem cells turning cancerous. Which is what you want, when you are doing testing that is, but when you can’t figure out a way to reliably prevent them from turning cancerous when treating patients, then you have a problem.
So what now?
It’s hard to say where research will go for stem cells right now, the huge controversy about embryonic stem cells has all but stripped funding for the projects.The new technology that had offered so much hope and promise has taken two steps forward and one step back.
In all fairness I should disclose that I am fully for embryonic stem cell research and the countless number of lives this [somewhat] new technology could save. Not to mention the quality of life of the millions of people that this could help improve and treatments that we could not even think of for diseases and ageing.
That being said, I still hold out some hope for a future where stem cells can be made controversy free and be applied in the commercial setting. Who knows, it could save your life one day.