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To cure sickle cell in mice just add skin -- no embryos necessary

DailyTech has long covered developments in stem cell research -- everything from using the stem cells in practical medical research to creation printable blood vessels to using the cells in more outlandish experiments such as the human-sheep "chimaera," which sounds like something straight out of The Island of Dr. Moreau

Most importantly new research allowed for the creation of pseudo-stem-cells from somatic (differentiated) cells, via an induction process.  The research was first pioneered by Japanese scientists and later confirmed by American researchers at Whitehead Medical Center in Massachusetts.  This new non-embryonic technique has the reluctant blessing of traditional stem cell opponents, including U.S. President George W. Bush and the Catholic Church.

The cells are dubbed induced Pluripotent Stem cells, iPS cells for short.  Last month it was shown that the cells could be created as easily from human skin tissue as mouse skin tissue.  Further, the research showed that the iPS cells behaved like true stem cells and could differentiate into the more than 200 types of cells in the human body.

Now scientists have completed groundbreaking research which gives an exciting glimpse into the tremendous potential the synthetic creation of stem cells can hold.  Researchers at Whitehead have used the artificially created stem cells, created from mouse skin tissue, to cure mice of sickle cell anemia, a potentially fatal inherited disease.   The research is published in the journal Science and is titled "Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia Mouse Model with iPS Cells Generated from Autologous Skin."


The research
sounds so good that many might wonder why the scientists at Whitehead are not rushing to put the process to work curing human disease.  The reason for Whitehead's reluctance is that they are trying to change aspects of their creation approach in order to make it human safe.  Researchers currently utilize genetically modified viruses in the induction process.  The viruses have the potential to trigger tumor growth in healthy mammalian tissues. 

"The big issue is how to replace these viruses", commented Rudolf Jaenisch co-leader of the research at Whitehead, in an interview with the Washington Post.

The current treatment method uses multiple rounds of viruses to modify genetic behavior of the cells.  The first round of gene-modified viruses induces the cells to behave like stem cells.  Next the scientists used a gene splicing technique to snip out the undesirable sickle-cell gene and replace it with a healthy gene.  Finally the scientists used an additional round of viruses which induced the cell to develop into a bone marrow cell.

The marrow cells were injected into the mice with sickle-cell and anchored in the bone marrow and began to release healthy red blood cells. 

"All the parameters we can measure are now normal," Jaenisch enthused. "The mice are cured."

Hopefully the researchers can modify the technique to avoid tumor induction as the potential of curing sickle-cell disease would help save many human lives.  In humans sometimes sickle cell is treated by a bone marrow transplant, but only 20% of humans have a donor close enough to them to allow for a safe transplant.  And over 20% of those who do receive transplants experience failure, often resulting in death.  However, bone marrow created from a modified version of this process would be completely safe as the cells are genetically identical to the donor.

In the mice radiation was used to kill the bone marrow of the mice, but in humans chemotherapy drugs such as Idarubicin and Cytarabin can be used to kill the bone marrow in a less caustic manner.  In mice 80 percent of the marrow cells now are the genetically healthy cells and they have experienced no tumor growth.

George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Children's Hospital in Boston, said the test was proof that human clinical applications of iPS cells were feasible.  He said,  "There will be lots of unanticipated setbacks before we end up in the clinic, but this work suggests that we will ultimately get there."

Jaenisch surprised some by emphasizing that despite his group's success, research on embryonic stem cells should be pushed ahead, not halted.

"All the progress in this field was only possible because we had embryonic stem cells to work with first.  We need to make more ES cells and really define which are going to be the best ones for different applications," he said.

Regardless, for stem cell proponents and opponents alike, this new research demonstrates a exciting process that may someday hold the cure for human diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, Parkinson's Disease and diabetes.


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RE: Religion:
By clovell on 12/9/2007 10:19:50 AM , Rating: 3
> religion is forcing people into a structured living on the punishment of *eternal* damnation. it's a form of control based on fear, more precisely forcing fear onto people so they don't deviate from the set pattern.

I'm not sure where this is coming from, but I don't live my religion out of fear. Also, structure is a good thing.

> those who do, will be punished, the spanish inquisition showed that. also, those in power want to remain in power, as shown by christians and muslims, "kill the infidels", or the crusades in short.

That was a long time ago. Times change.

> here's a difference between beeing a catholic and beeing a devout cataholic (:P). the parents have the decision to baptize their child or not and in those days it was very abnormal to have them not baptized. hell my dad doesn't belive anything in the form of god but he was baptized, since even in my grandmother's day it was still normal. was it really god or rather their own intelligence to give them the mindset they needed? i know for a fact that if my dad would have belived in god he would've been held back in his music making. good thing that didn't happen.

So, through this crystal ball of yours, religion is proven to be a very bad thing, eh? That's your call there, slick, but I'm not buying it.

> besides for every great man that was affected by religion i can show you 1000 stupid ones that are a lot more dangerous. besides that, how many great future scientists did religion get rid of, because they where of another religion?

On the other side of the same coin I can say 'How many great future scientist did a split from religion get rid of by legalizing abortion?' We can play numbers all day.

> there has been no greater greed then the catholic church, claiming to follow jesus's lifestyle of poverty and giving to the needy with golden chandeliers. the gluttony of their priests has also yet to be matched, spouting fat monks in a time where food was scarce. lets skip lust, but priests/young boys should say enough, it's not normal to hold it all back. since the definition of sloth has evolved over the years (one of the sins evolving?!? yes. consistency people.) i can't really think of a case, save maybe their adaptation of technology (Galileo, and other scientisis pursecured and burned for their CORRECT also later by the church adopted beliefs). there has been no greater wrath then the christian one, i think even god's shocked at this point. and envy? well i can't think of that one right now, i'll bet somebody else can though.

First, the Catholic Church gives more money to worldwide missions annually than any other organization in the world. As for celibacy, it works just fine - Catholic priests have about the same rate of child abuse as third grade teachers. That in no way excuses their horrendous actions, but it does show that there are lots of good priests.

> as wikipedia tells me... pride is biggest sin of them all. and the biggest source of pride on this planet right now is religion. just look at the riots when you show Mohammed's face. it's the muslim pride of their profit. christians have it as well, the ban on stem cell research, no abortions, no eutanism... it's the pride of their precious book telling them what to do that causes that.

Uh, no. It's the belief that all life is sacred and worth defending. Very simple concept that has zero to do with pride.

> the world would be better off with religion, there isn't a question about that. however people are not better off without beliefs. i just wish that in this day and age such a mass of people didn't need to belive in something they can not see, hear, toutch, smell or taste and has yet to leave any evidence in history that it's there, save for the word of 1 man.

There's been a lot more than the word of 1 man. You need to give that crystal ball a rest - not only do you not know what the world would be like without religion, it doesn't do us any good to talk about something like that.

> i smoke weed (don't worry i'm dutch it's legal) however i take every precaution to make sure nobody gets even a whiff of it, simply because i don't think they should suffer because of my nasty habbit (to put it simple). why on earth do i have to suffer from yours?

Good for you. How is my religion hurting you? My opposition to ESC is my right in my country. I also think an embryo is a life, so your 'habit' or 'beliefs' also cause suffering from my point of view.


RE: Religion:
By retrospooty on 12/9/2007 10:54:59 AM , Rating: 3
I think the main point he was making is that religion divides humanity far more than it unites us. Most major wars have been fought for it, most unnatural deaths that have happened are due to it. Scientific advances have been stifled by it and ignorance prospers from it.

There are many christians that are humble and do not force thier views on others, and good for them... But from what I see in history and what I see currently in this country is that most christians look down on non christians and see them as lesser people. This holier than thou attitude is very destructive -just ask the 6 million people Hitler killed for his beloved christianity. That mentality lives on in our country today and it scares the hell out of me.


RE: Religion:
By Etsp on 12/9/2007 7:47:13 PM , Rating: 4
With the concept of religion causing wars, religion is most often just a convenient excuse that allowed the masses to accept and embrace a war... If there had never been any religion, I'm sure there would have been a similar amount of wars, but they would have had to find a different excuse to start it. Religion is usually an excuse, not a cause.


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