Monday, March 17, 2008

Impact of iPS Cells

When Dr. Jamie Thomson and his team announced their success in reverse-engineering adult skin cells back to the nascent blueprint, embryonic stem cells, I knew there'd be quite a stir.

At first blush, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) might be the answer to the ethical conundrum that has stalled federal support of embryonic stem cell research: some feel the "potential for life" (i.e. the small cluster of cells inside the pre-implantation blastocyst) should be afforded the same constellation of human rights and protections that our constitution guarantees an existing, human life.

Adult cells that can be bit-banged back to their defining-formula, may be the answer.

Though, "Is this an instance of genetic-engineering?" comes to mind immediately. Just think of the uproar a few years back concerning genetically-engineered milk! (rBGH - for those of you not from the dairy state).

I can see no end to the ethical, moral, and political debates, not mentioning hard, scientific questions that need answers:
  • what is "potential for life"? how should it be protected?
  • are reversed-engineered adult cells as good as newly minted cells from the blastocyst?
  • how will state and federal monies be divided up to study these approaches?
  • is the 'life' that is engineered through the iPS process 'potential for life'?
  • can iPS be understood without understanding embryonic stem cells?
  • are all the scientists going to abandon embryonic stem cell research for iPS?
  • will politicians chicken out of formulating sound regulatory guidelines for embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells? at state and federal levels?
Let's hope the hoopla of the last few years is done, and we can move forward in both areas of stem cell research: induced pluripotent and embryonic stem cell research.

There are too many people, suffering from conditions and diseases that have nothing but the hope of a stem-cell therapy breakthrough on the horizon, to allow this to become a duel between two potentially breakthrough technologies.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

test comment