Embryonic-Like Stem Cells Obtained from Skin Cells without Destroying Life
MADISON, Wisconsin/ KYOTO, Japan, November 28, 2007-- A new study released last week by two teams of scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Kyoto University in Japan revealed the possibility of reprogramming regular human skin cells to obtain embryonic-like stem cells. This historic discovery means that the kind of stem cell research that requires the killing of a human being in his or her embryonic stage of life is no longer needed.
Will Attempts to Clone Humans Still Be Pursued?
The research shows it is possible to produce stem cells that are genetically identical to the patient's cells without human cloning or without using human eggs harvested at high risk to women. The process uses four genes for a direct reprogramming of adult human skin cells to produce induced pluripotent state (IPS) cells that are like embryonic stem cells. However, laws still permit cloning in California and Missouri with the use of taxpayer funding.
Embryonic Stem Cell Research May Still Continue
This breakthrough also means that the Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Research funding bill is no longer needed and hopefully will be easier to defeat in Congress. But embryonic stem cell research and embryo destruction could continue in California, Missouri, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin using taxpayer funding already approved for it.
Leading Scientist Embraces New Method
Ian Wilmut, the scientist who headed the team which cloned "Dolly" the sheep, announced that he is going to abandon efforts at human "therapeutic cloning" in favor of the newly discovered method of adult cell reprogramming, which he described as technically superior. Additionally, the new process is easier and will be much less expensive.
Cardinal Praises New Procedure as Free of "Ethical Landmines"
The new discovery was enthusiastically welcomed by Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement issued shortly after the studies were published.
"The goal sought for years through failed attempts at human cloning â€“ the production of â€˜pluripotentâ€™ stem cells that are an exact genetic match to a patient â€“ has been brought within reach by an ethical procedure. This technology avoids the many ethical landmines associated with embryonic stem cell research: it does not clone or destroy human embryos, does not harm or exploit women for their eggs, and does not blur the line between human beings and other species through desperate efforts to make human embryos using animal eggs", said the Cardinal.
Cardinal Rigali also expressed his gratitude to scientists who dedicated themselves to pursuing morally acceptable forms of stem cell research, as well as to government leaders encouraging such research.