"CHICAGO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Using a new type of stem cells made from ordinary skin cells, U.S. researchers said on Thursday they treated mice with sickle cell anemia, proving in principle that such cells could be used as a therapy.There is a lot of exciting news in the stem cell arena. To see some real progress in applying the newer, non-destructive stem cell research to a real medical problem is encouraging.
U.S. and Japanese researchers last month reported they had reprogrammed human skin cells into behaving like embryonic stem cells, the body's master cells. They call the cells induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells for short.
The Japanese team had previously done the reprogramming work in mouse skin cells.
A team at the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has now used the new cells to treat mice engineered to have sickle cell anemia, a disease of the blood caused by a defect in a single gene."
One thing that characterizes this debate more than any other debate I've seen is the discernment that goes into it. People see the medical problems and know that stem cell research can address such problems, but they are uncomfortable with the destruction of developing embryos in order to harvest pluripotent stem cells. The question is not "can we do it?" but "should we do it?" The newer research in "reprogramming" adult cells seems to be alleviating the bioethical concerns of many in and out of the scientific community.
It is encouraging that even while the debate was raging in the scientific and political realms, there were researchers who were willing and able to quietly continue their studies, even in the face of skepticism at the idea of reprogramming adult cells.