Scientists have found a way to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells that could safely be used in patients while avoiding the ethical dilemma of destroying embryos.
In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form.
The work has been hailed as a major step forward by scientists and welcomed by pro-life organizations, who called on researchers to halt other experiments that use stem cells collected from embryos made at IVF clinics.
Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep and heads the UK’s Medical Research Council Center for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University where the work was done, said: “This is a significant step in the right direction. The team has made great progress and combining this work with that of other scientists working on stem cell differentiation, there is hope that the promise of regenerative medicine could soon be met.”
Stem cells have the potential to be turned into any tissue in the body, an ability that has led researchers to believe they could be used to make “spare parts” to replace diseased and damaged organs and treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.
Because the cells can be made from a patient’s own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.
Scientists showed they could make stem cells from adult cells more than a year ago, but the cells could never be used in patients because the procedure involved injecting viruses that could cause cancer.
In 2007, researchers in Japan and America announced they had turned adult skin cells into stem cells by injecting them with a virus carrying four extra genes.
Now, scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have found another method, making so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell therapies a realistic prospect for the first time.
In two papers published in the journal Nature, Keisuke Kaji in Edinburgh and Andras Nagy in Toronto describe how they reprogrammed cells using a safer technique called electroporation.
This allowed the scientists to do away with viruses and ferry genes into the cells through pores.
Once the genes had done their job, the scientists removed them, leaving the cells healthy and intact. Tests on stem cells made from human and mouse cells showed they behaved in the same as embryonic stem cells.
“I was very excited when I found stem cell-like cells in my culture dishes. Nobody, including me, thought it was really possible,” said Kaji. “It is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells.”
Nagy said: “We hope that these stem cells will form the basis for treatment for many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable. We have found a highly efficient and safe way to create new cells for the human body which avoids the challenge of immune rejection.”
Josephine Quintavalle from the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said: “I don’t think people are going to waste time on embryonic stem cells any more. Half of Europe is opposed to embryonic stem cell research. This is definitely a very, very promising way forward and a very promising solution to the embryonic stem cell battle.”
It would be some time before the cells could be used in patients, Wilmut said, because scientists had yet to find reliable ways of making different tissues from stem cells.
With most of his village preferring to converse in Mandarin, opportunities are scant for 81-year-old Kacaw to use his mother language of Amis. But things are changing in his household — one day the family was having an animated discussion when his plucky four-year-old granddaughter Nikal bursts into the room: “You should talk in the mother tongue,” she tells them loudly in Amis. Another time, Nikal’s uncle Yosifu, a well-known artist, overheard her arguing with her grandmother over rights to the television remote — “in our mother tongue,” he tells me excitedly. “With such visible change, I can see hope
British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor , 66, is mounting his largest-ever UK exhibition of outdoor sculpture at Houghton Hall in Norfolk from late this month, including his famous Sky Mirror, a five-meter stainless steel disc that turns the world around it upside down. Sarah Crompton: What kind of things did you want to show at Houghton Hall? Anish Kapoor: It’s one of the great houses of England, with a great history, and extensive grounds. I decided the stone works that I’ve made over the past 25 years, and I’ve never shown in the UK before, would sit quite well there. Then it
Deaths, economic meltdown and a planet on lockdown: the coronavirus pandemic has brought us waves of bad news, but squint and you might just see a few bright spots. From better hygiene that has reduced other infectious diseases to people reaching out as they self-isolate, here are some slivers of silver linings during a bleak moment. WASH YOUR HANDS! The message from health professionals has been clear from the start of the outbreak: wash your hands. Everyone from celebrities to politicians has had a go at demonstrating correct technique — including singing Happy Birthday twice through to make sure you scrub long enough, and
It’s going to get easier, I think to myself, as I lie in bed in the darkness, one hand gripping tightly the edge of the mattress, the other pressing hard on the spot where my head just thudded loudly, again, into a wall. In the bunk below, my cabinmate Oleg is dozing deeply. I might not be sleeping yet, but I will once I’ve found my sea legs. I’ve come a long way, I try to reassure myself, considering it’s only my fourth night at sea. When I arrived on board my temporary new home, Greenpeace’s MV Esperanza, even successfully navigating