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New Stem Cells Avoid Use of Embryos

In yet another dramatic development in the advance of ethical stem cell research, scientists at several research institutes have discovered a relatively easy process of manipulating existing cells to produce highly-prized pluripotent stem cells.  In the January 2014 issue of Nature magazine, scientists report: “Here we report a unique cellular reprogramming phenomenon, called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP), which requires neither nuclear transfer nor the introduction of transcription factors.  In STAP, strong external stimuli such as a transient low-pH stressor reprogrammed mammalian somatic cells, resulting in the generation of pluripotent cells.”

Pluripotent cells are ones with the ability to produce any cell in the body.  It was once believed that creation of embryonic stem cells through destruction of living human embryos was the only means of obtaining pluripotent stem cells.  In 2007, scientists discovered iPS cells which have pluripotent qualities, and now research has yielded an apparently even simpler process to obtain pluripotent stem cells.   The STAP research was conducted on blood cells from newborn mice.

Father Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, hailed the research, stating:  “If this technology proves feasible with human cells, which seems likely, it will offer yet another alternative for obtaining highly flexible stem cells without relying on the destructive use of human embryos.  This is clearly a positive direction for scientific research.”

This is an exciting development as scientists turn to ethical research to create products to benefit the human condition that all can support.

Barbara Lyons

Read lead-in to the nature article here.

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