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Embryonic stem cells could be long term treatment for diabetes

Stem cells carry high hopes to help treat and possibly cure a myriad of diseases. However, the use of stem cells is a subject of great debate do to the fact that the best source for stem cells for use in this type of research is from human embryos.

Reuters reports that researchers from California-based Novocell Inc. recently used human embryonic stem cells to treat diabetes in mice. The stem cells were implanted into mice and were turned into “nearly” normal insulin-producing cells in the mice.

The animal trial hints at a possible long term treatment for diabetes. According to MSNBC at least 170 million people globally have diabetes with the number of afflicted expected to double by 2030. Those afflicted with one of the two types of diabetes, types 1 and 2, can’t use or create enough insulin to regulate glucose in the blood.

The researchers used embryonic stem cells from discarded embryos from fertility clinics. Batches of the stem cells were then grown by the researchers in lines in other human cells. Emmanuel Baetge, Novocell chief scientific officer says, “Our data provide the first compelling evidence that human embryonic stem cells can serve as a renewable source of functional insulin-producing cells for diabetes cell replacement therapies.”

These embryonic stem cells created by the researchers are said to be able to live virtually forever in lab dishes and produce generations of new cells. Baetge says that at first the team was able to produce hormone-producing or endocrine cells, but that each cell produced a mishmash of hormones instead of the specifically insulin producing cells they were aiming for.

The problem with growing the right cell led the researchers to implant the stem cells into a mouse where Baetge says something in the mouse directed the cells to mature properly. Baetge told MSNBC in a phone interview, “[Stem cells] are producing all the right enzymes and release insulin in response to glucose.”

Novocell says it is now looking for a large pharmaceutical company to partner with to fund further research. DailyTech reported in December 2007 that researchers had been able to create stem cells artificially and use the cells to cure sickle cell in mice.

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RE: Stem cells recently found in breast milk
By clovell on 2/21/2008 4:49:38 PM , Rating: 3
Good link. One thing I find strange in almost all articles I read about stem cell research is that they don't accurately portray the disparity between the progress made with adult stem cells versus that of embryonic stem cells.

It's an important distiction to make since the ethics of ESC research hinges on the definition of life - something that researchers don't really agree on.

On the one hand you have a group that wants to alleviate the suffering of others by advancing medicine and science into new fields, but has met with considerable opposition. To their credit they've managed to engineer ways to quell the concerns of the opposition by tricking adult stem cells to behave as ESCs. However, it seems that this exercise was more of a proof of concept than an actual method whereby the research could be continued in the face of ethical concerns.

On the other hand, you have a second war of 1812. Yes, let me be clear, I just went there. Supposing that their is an inherent ethical problem with this research, we are impressing people (albeit very tiny ones) into medical service, a service that ultimately ends in their death. In a sense, it's not entirely different from the British capturing US citizens on merchant ships and forcing them into service in the royal navy.

Regardless of what you think, and I'm certainly not going to offer any more opinion on the matter, you need to be able to recognize that this science involves very real ethical dilemmas. I think it's rather unfair that any ethical appeal in science is branded with the heresy of religion, and dismissed on that demerit alone.

I think that scientific progress should be guided by ethics. Doing it the other way around would lead us down some horrible roads.

If you've suffered through all this, thanks. Now you can rate me down.

RE: Stem cells recently found in breast milk
By MaulBall789 on 2/21/2008 5:18:32 PM , Rating: 2
Your point is well made. But there is yet another side to this really oddly shaped coin. Fertility clinics throughout the USA and other countries dispose of many frozen embryos every day. If even a percentage of these were simply donated (not sold, mind you) to stem cell research and eventually used to alleviate suffering in a living human being I would say that is a fair trade off. Its outright disposal helps no one, especially the embryo.

What may truly mess up your mind is if they find ESC's can cure many kinds of infertility. THEN you have a real problem.

By clovell on 2/22/2008 11:01:11 AM , Rating: 2
Great point. That's where the rubber of ethics hits the road of reality and another spectrum of gray is introduced. Definitely something to be carefully considered.

By Xenoterranos on 2/22/2008 1:36:42 PM , Rating: 2
Someone get me a magnifying glass, photoshop, and some very very tiny British admiral hats.


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