Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Oh, BTW, Embryonic Stem Cells Do Offer Some Hope...

I use the "BTW" initialese because it really is incidental to the main argument.  That is, you cannot argue against a line of research on the grounds that it has not yet been shown to work.  If that were the case, we would not be funding antibalistic missle research (or much of any research, really). 

Scientists Use Embryonic Stem Cells To Prevent Birth Defect Death in Mouse Embryos
08 Oct 2004
© 2004 Medical News Today

Scientists may have complicated the "hot ethical battle" over embryonic stem cell research by maintaining the viability of mouse embryos with otherwise fatal genetic heart defects by injecting them with embryonic stem cells -- a case in which researchers "saved embryos by destroying embryos," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Quick, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/7).

In a study published in the Oct. 8 issue of the journal Science, Robert Benezra and colleagues from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York injected embryonic stem cells extracted from healthy mice into mouse embryos that were predisposed to develop fatal heart defects. The researchers discovered that when the embryonic stem cells were "incorporated" into the mouse embryos, they released a molecular signal that caused the defective heart cells to function normally, according to Long Island Newsday (Lane, Long Island Newsday, 10/8). [...]

'Most Definitive Evidence Yet'

The study provides the "most definitive evidence yet" that embryonic stem cells can help repair organs both by filling damaged areas and by secreting chemicals that allow damaged areas to rejuvenate themselves, the Washington Post reports.

"Most of the work on stem cells to date has focused on how to get these cells to turn into a heart cell, a kidney cell, a bone cell or whatever it is you need," Craig Basson, director of cardiovascular research at Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York, said, adding, "The key scientific finding here is that stem cells can also modify the cells that are already there to repair, in this case, injured hearts." However, the researchers cautioned that the technique used in the study is a "long way" from being tested in humans because of "technical and ethical concerns," according to the Post (Weiss, Washington Post, 10/8). [...]

However, Michael Clarke, a developmental biologist and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said that the work has "huge significance" for demonstrating that embryonic chemicals can directly control organ development. Clarke said that he "doubt[s]" that adult stem cells -- favored by opponents of embryonic stem cell research -- would have the same regenerative qualities as embryonic stem cells, according to the Post (Washington Post, 10/8). [...]

For more information: http://www.kaisernetwork.org

For a contrary review, see this post  at Brain Shavings (where the trackback function seems to be nonfunctioning.)