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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: Huzzah!
By sweetsauce on 12/9/2007 11:55:01 PM , Rating: 1
You said it yourself
Many people REGARD them as living people.
Meaning, its an OPINION. An OPINION based on religious FAITH, which should never affect government policy. Its a damn embroy, not a life. An embroy still requires sperm to become a leech, and that leech isn't a life until it can live on its own.

RE: Huzzah!
By emarston on 12/10/2007 8:47:11 AM , Rating: 2
By your form of logic all babies(that have been born) and really toddlers are leeches. Without someone to provide them food they would die. Heck many parents would say the same of their own offspring until they are finally out on their own. Or you could say that about people in Intensive Care who cannot survive without the help of life support equipment. These people in many cases make a full recovery, but I guess they are just leeches when they are unable to live on their own.

Whether you want to believe it or not an embryo is a human. It just happens to be a part the steps we take to develop as humans. Nothing more and nothing less. Just because we give something a name there is no science proving that it isn't a human. Oh and just a thought, but it does have a heart beat, a brain, really all those organs we all have as adults (just not fully developed).

I just laugh (sadly) when I hear people argue about things due to it being convenient. Either way when I look at the sonogram of my unborn child waving it's little arms and legs around and hear it's heart beating, I'll never understand why someone could think of a little unborn baby as anything other than human.

Argue what you will, faith, for me has nothing to do with it. I've seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears through the use of science to form my thoughts on the subject.

RE: Huzzah!
By theapparition on 12/10/2007 12:22:47 PM , Rating: 5
We kill life daily. All of us. We kill animals and eat their flesh, or murder plants to digest thier starches. Walking across the grass kills hundreds of invertibate life. We are all killers and we live from the death of other living things.

Sounds pretty harsh when put this way, but it is the truth.

So where do you draw the line? That's the question, and I'm not going to even atempt to adress that here.

My issue with "organized" religion is that they are constantly changing where the line is. It was OK for knights to kill during the crusades. It was OK to kill non-belivers. It was OK to burn witches. So "morality" has signifigantly changed over the millenia.

Your reasoning about toddlers is out of line. That toddler, or newborn for that matter, can be raised in any household, in another country for that matter. A 1st trimester ebryo can't.

And I also support that we should be able to euthenize terminally ill people.

While I personally don't like abortion, or would recommend it as an option to anyone, I think that it should be a leagal and safe option for one who choses it.

What astounds me is the number of people who are against something when its not them. How many people against abortion changed thier minds when its they who has to make the choice? How many against the death penalty until a loved one gets murdered? We love telling other people what to do, but no one wants to tell us what to do. Funny?

Coincidently, the majority of people who are anti-abortion also support the death penalty. So its OK to kill, but it's not OK.
The majority of people who are anti-death penalty are also pro-choice. Go figure?

Me. Leave me alone to make my own decisions. Don't tell me what I can't do. I think everyone else just has too much free time on their hands.

RE: Huzzah!
By clovell on 12/10/2007 12:12:37 PM , Rating: 2
Uh, no, dude - the point is that your view is just as much of an opinion as mine. Defining where life begins is an axioms - something that can't be proven on its own - it's taken for granted.

By the way, an embryo is already fertilized and doesn't require sperm. For having such a strong opinion on the matter, you sure are misinformed.

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