Human Stem Cells Without Controversy?

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University of Wisconsin stem cell scientists are reporting in the upcoming issue of Science (subscription only) that they have created pluripotent human stem cell lines by adding four genes to somatic cells that produce connective tissues. The role of the four genes, OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, and LIN28, in producing stem cells was discovered through previous experimentation with human embryonic stem cell lines.

The researchers conclude:

The human iPS [induced pluripotent stem] cells described here meet the defining criteria we originally proposed for human ES cells, with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos. Similar to human ES cells, human iPS cells should prove useful for studying the development and function of human tissues, for discovering and testing new drugs, and for transplantation medicine. For transplantation therapies based on these cells, with the exception of autoimmune diseases, patient-specific iPS cell lines should largely eliminate the concern of immune rejection. It is important to understand, however, that before the cells can be used in the clinic, additional work is required to avoid vectors that integrate into the genome, potentially introducing mutations at the insertion site. For drug development, human iPS cells should make it easier to generate panels of cell lines that more closely reflect the genetic diversity of a population, and should make it possible to generate cell lines from individuals predisposed to specific diseases. Human ES cells remain controversial because their derivation involves the destruction of human preimplantation embryos and iPS cells remove this concern. However, further work is needed to determine if human iPS cells differ in clinically significant ways from ES cells.

In other words, the eventual hope is that by dosing the somatic cells of patients with these four genes that physicians will be able to produce stem cells that would be perfect transplants to replace damaged, diseased or aged tissues and organs. In addition, further research using human embryonic stem cells is needed to validate these results.

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  1. Human Stem Cells Without Controversy?

    Ron,

    Your fatal error here is the use of logic on this emotional issue.

    The “controversy” is federal funding of anything Leftist remotely related to human tissue. According to those folks, unless the federal government is funding x then x never happens.

    There is already plenty of embrionic stem cell research going on privately, but that somehow never gets into the descussion when the MSM is involved, unless you venture over to Radley’s network, of course. They whine and cry that President Bush never funded stem cell research and that is what killed [insert celebrity], no matter how false all of that is.

    No amount of embrionic stem cell research will count, anyplace in the world, unless George W. Bush creates funding, extraconstitutionally without so much as a by-your-leave to the Congress. Oh, and even that would lead to a new spat of whining, especially if abortion on demand does not come with a bonus check from the government.

  2. If the cells have a complete genome and are capable of dividing if implanted in a uterus, they meet the pro-lifers’ definition of personhood. If the pro-lifers are being consistent, then the controvery remains.

    But, then, there really isn’t an angle related to controlling women here, so I don’t expect the pro-lifers to be consistent.

  3. Is that straw I smell?

  4. Hi Guy: I understand your point, but pro-lifers oppose any human embryonic stem cell research, either privately or publicly funded. Also, should religious concerns determine public funding priorities, e.g., stem cell research, abstinence sex education, intelligent design in public schools, nuclear arsenal validation research, and so forth?

  5. Ron,
    Do these count as babies? If they aren’t federally subsidized certified dead baby stem cells
    christopher Reeve ain’t walkin’ and Reagan won’t get his alzheimers cured. No more Back to the Future sequels either.

  6. If the cells have a complete genome and are capable of dividing if implanted in a uterus, they meet the pro-lifers’ definition of personhood

    Personhood is only one element of the pro-lifer’s objections to embryonic stem cell research. Uniqueness is the other aspect. There’s no objection to killing a non-unique cell with a complete genome anymore than there is to removing warts or amputating limbs.

  7. There’s no objection to killing a non-unique cell with a complete genome anymore than there is to removing warts or amputating limbs.

    But what if that wart grows up to be the next Einstein?

  8. But what if that wart grows up to be the next Einstein?

    Well, you have to take the good with the bad. The wart could also grow up to be the next Barbara Streisand. The metaphysical implications are deep.

  9. But what if that wart grows up to be the next Einstein?

    Or Hitler? GODWIN ME

  10. But, then, there really isn’t an angle related to controlling women here, so I don’t expect the pro-lifers to be consistent.

    For a joke to be funny joe, it has to ring true. This doesn’t.

  11. Abdul,

    As far as I know, pro-lifers most certainly would oppose the destruction of one fraternal twin at the zygote stage – which would be an example of “a non-unique cell with a complete genome.”

    x,y,

    It wasn’t a joke.

  12. ….pro-lifers oppose any human embryonic stem cell research…

    The link indicates the Catholics morally oppose embryonic stem-cell research but I saw no calls for making it illegal.

    I morally oppose “scientific addiction research” where they hook the monkeys up to a machine that gives an iv shot of cocaine when they press the bar.I highly doubt this “science” would be conducted without Federal $$$ but if it is your coke and your monkeys, and not on my dime, go right ahead. I will remain morally opposed however.

  13. >>For a joke to be funny joe, it has to ring true. This doesn’t.

    For a person to find a joke funny, x,y, you have to be familiar with the issues surrounding the joke. You aren’t.

  14. SIV,

    As a former monkey getting iv shots of coke on demand, fuck you!

    Seriously though, I caught something on NPR about a Japanese firm testing some skin cells that, when treated with the proper whatever-stuff, act like stem cells. The upside? No embryos harmed in the making of this medicine.

    Ron, is this the same story, or something different? I would likely know if I RTFA’ed, but it’s too early for so much scientific jargon…

  15. They would never destroy the next Einstein. They’d just make it look like he was destroyed, then grow him in a vat in the NSA basement.

  16. I’m going to start finding ways to use “if it is your coke and your monkeys, and not on my dime, go right ahead” in casual conversation.

  17. They whine and cry that President Bush never funded stem cell research and that is what killed [insert celebrity], no matter how false all of that is.

    It’s not an issue of “the federal government won’t fund the research so it won’t happen wah wah.” The problem is that the federal government will withold funding from instituations that stray from its too narrow restrictions on stem cell research. So if the biology department of a university does privately funded stem cell research, then the engineering, aerospace, agriculture, etc. departments all lose their grants. This is obviously coercive, in the same way that the government uses federal highway dollars to coerce state governments, most notoriously to raise their drinking ages.

  18. pro-lifers most certainly would oppose the destruction of one fraternal twin at the zygote stage – which would be an example of “a non-unique cell with a complete genome.”

    Perhaps you meant identical twin? Fraternal twins are the result of two eggs being fertilized by two different sperm at the same time–thus they have different genes but the same parents. Identical twins are the result of one egg fertilized by one sperm that split in half–thus they have the same genes. If this doesn’t make sense, have your mother or sex educator explain the details.

    Even in the case of identical twins, once that fertilized egg splits you have two unique persons who happen to have the same genes.

    Personally, I could live without Mary Kate so long as we keep Ashley around.

  19. thoreau,

    If they did that, could vegans eat him?

  20. For a joke to be funny joe, it has to ring true. This doesn’t.

    I laughed. Or at least grinned a little.

  21. I’m going to start finding ways to use “if it is your coke and your monkeys, and not on my dime, go right ahead” in casual conversation.

    I’ve always said that I want to write a screenplay. Maybe I’ll put that line in there.

    Oh, wait, I’m on strike. Not over DVD royalties, however. I’m demanding a cure for writer’s block and a 30 hour day. Until they deliver that, I’m not writing.

    Maybe stem cells could be used to cure writer’s block….

  22. Abdul,
    .
    Yes, I meant identical twins.
    .
    Even in the case of identical twins, once that fertilized egg splits you have two unique persons who happen to have the same genes.

    That is precisely the situation when you use this technique to make a ligament cell pluripotent – you have a distinct, unique cell that shares DNA with another person.

  23. Guy,
    Of course there’s a big problem with what is considered federally funded as well. There were many research institutions that would’ve loved to do embryonic stem cell research without federal funding. However, if it was done in a building that had even one brick paid for by federal funds, it was considered federal funded.

    So there was a lot of research that would be viable in preexisting facilities, but if a new building had to be used and new procurement systems had to be used (to separate the federally funded pipettes from the privately funded pipettes), it no longer is viable. The research institutions that did it were the ones that never got federal funds in the first place, so they didn’t have to worry about those extra fixed costs.

    That’s the problem with not allowing federal funding. It knocked out a lot of the best research institutions in the world.

    And since when is science “Leftist”?

  24. And since when is science “Leftist”?

    Since the fundies took over the right…

  25. And since when is science “Leftist”?

    I’d say since the Enlightenment.

  26. My philosophical opposition is to federal funding of this. I simply am philosophically opposed to federal funding of just about everything. I don’t want anyone’s money stolen for any purpose. Robin Hood was no hero simply because he was stealing from the rich to give to the poor. And I don’t care which party is in power and to what end they are spending the money they are stealing from us. I couldn’t care less what private funding is researching. It is none of my damn business. But it becomes my damn business when my money is being stolen to fund it.

  27. Abdul: But what happens to the extra soul when twins (either identical or fraternal) recombine into one embryo? 😉

    For some of my thoughts on the issue see my column, “Is Heaven Populated Chiefly by the Souls of Embryos?

  28. Hey joe,

    “Where are you going with that noose in your hand?”

    FBI Hate Crimes Statistics are out and Massachusetts reports 379 Hate Crimes last year while Alabama has 1 and Mississippi zero.
    When are you guys going to join the 21st Century?

  29. And the non-sequitur award goes to SIV, for excellence in “Hey, look over there!”

  30. Ron,

    Hi Guy: I understand your point, but pro-lifers oppose any human embryonic stem cell research, either privately or publicly funded. Also, should religious concerns determine public funding priorities, e.g., stem cell research, abstinence sex education, intelligent design in public schools, nuclear arsenal validation research, and so forth?

    I was just sticking to my criticism of the Left and their research whining. Some of it popped up here, after my comment.

    I am certainly not on the side of religious concerns determining public policy either. It just so happens that some of those concerns do move toward the outcome that I prefer, like not sanctioning the killing of babies, abstenance is an option to prevent pregnancy and STD transmittal, etc.*

    As my comment earlier inferred, I am certainly not opposed to private embrionic stem-cell research and oppose much of what the religious herders leaders have to say about that.

    *No, I do not think that a skin cell tricked into becoming embrionic-stem-cell-like is the same thing as a baby.

  31. But what happens to the extra soul when twins (either identical or fraternal) recombine into one embryo? 😉

    Heaven shouldn’t have too many embryos but Limbo is so full of them the new Kraut Pope shut it down.

  32. nuclear arsenal validation research

    I blasted right past that one!

    It is “religious” people who stopped live nuclear weapons testing? Am I even reading that comment right?

    NOOOOO! I am in the camp of “test ’em if ya got ’em” and WE have not used them enough!

  33. >>>additional work is required to avoid vectors that integrate into the genome

    What does that mean? That there’s a risk of adding unwanted genes during the procedure? Or something to do with unwanted activation of genes by way of contact with the petri dish?

    Also, can “doped” cells be “undoped” en mass in completed organs, to make them 100% matches with the original donor cells, or do they always retain the doped genes? What effect might that have on future generations of the cell line in a cloned organ?

  34. Hi Guy: I understand your point, but pro-lifers oppose any human embryonic stem cell research, either privately or publicly funded.

    Ron, maybe if you define “pro-life” as “someone who opposes any stem cell research”. Plenty of people like me who consider themselves pro-life who think the stem cell lovers are a bit whack. And some, like me, also think the “evolution doesn’t happen” crowd is deluded, too. People who believe in protecting fairly small human beings aren’t a monolithic bloc all marching in lockstep.

    Maybe you need to take away my Pro-Life Secret Decoder Ring for uttering such blasphemy.

    😉

  35. I am sensing a sequil to Species somewhere in this discussion.

  36. Score one for Bush & Co. By sticking to their agenda, they forced scientists to harvest “outside the box” (apologies). Who knows when or even if this technology would have been found without the insistence to find another way.

  37. prolefeed,

    Maybe you need to take away my Pro-Life Secret Decoder Ring for uttering such blasphemy.

    G_d is in the process of taking care of Mr. Bailey. His children are growing up 🙂


  38. What does that mean? That there’s a risk of adding unwanted genes during the procedure?

    Sounds like some other “scientific research”

  39. If the cells have a complete genome and are capable of dividing if implanted in a uterus, they meet the pro-lifers’ definition of personhood … But, then, there really isn’t an angle related to controlling women here, so I don’t expect the pro-lifers to be consistent.

    joe, you’re gonna lose your anti-global warming street cred burning all those strawmen. Not all pro-lifers are equivalent to the evil, evil Republican stereotype in your head.

  40. thoreau | November 20, 2007, 11:21am | #

    And the non-sequitur award goes to SIV, for excellence in “Hey, look over there!”,/i>

    Give him a break, thoreau.

    I’ve obviously come to a play a very large role in his thoughts, and he just couldn’t help himself.

  41. Does anyone really think the religious right will be able to mount a successful campaign to seriously set back scientific research in this field? Methinks the ageing baby boomers will “choose (their own) life” over “choose (some microbial) life”….

  42. Not all pro-lifers are committed to the consistence application of the principles they claim to base their political stances on.

    There, fixed that for you.

    I know, quite well thank you, that many, many pro-lifers don’t actually give a damn about THIS set of “small persons.” That’s rather my point.

  43. Great tag work there joe

    I didn’t even think of you and the fact that the FBI reports your State is rife with violent bigotry until you expressed appreciation for my
    cleverly worded “libertarian trifecta” comment incorporating the WoDs,animal rights and Federal funding of scientific research.

  44. “But, then, there really isn’t an angle related to controlling women here, so I don’t expect the pro-lifers to be consistent.”

    That was weak. Really weak. I expect better. Save that crap for when someone shouts ‘babykiller’ at you, a more appropriate place for such pablum.

  45. Score one for Bush & Co. By sticking to their agenda, they forced scientists to harvest “outside the box” (apologies). Who knows when or even if this technology would have been found without the insistence to find another way.

    I doubt it. There was still going to be a lot of work done in this area. If they figure out how to make stem cells into organs, the big money is turning somatic cells into stem cells. The lets you make organs that won’t be rejected by your immune system. So they’d either have to figure out how to put DNA from somatic cells into stem cells or how to turn somatic cells into stem cells.

  46. Oh, good, another threadjack about me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me meme me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.

    Thanks, SIV, I’m sure everyone appreciates it.

    BTW, the libertarian trifecta, as far as I can tell, is 1) hijack a thread, 2) turn the conversation into a discussion of me, and 3) take some data out of context to make a case that can’t stand on its own.

    So, congratulations, SIV. I’m sure everyone is thrilled at your contribution to this dicussion of…um…what was the thread about again? Nose plugs?

  47. kohlrabi,

    The fact that nobody is shouting “babykiller” is sort of the point. Your complaint doesn’t make any sense.

  48. I don’t think the government should be funding nose plugs either…

  49. Taktix:

    but what if the nose plugs are part of the campaign to reduce the avenues for skull fucking?

    (yes, this was probably unnecessary)

  50. this thread was jacked at post #2

  51. joe,

    Obviously you do.Look at all the typing you are wasting on it.You quoted me in an off-topic comment first.Dont’t leave your nooses on the MBTA OK?

  52. joe,

    The fact that nobody is shouting “babykiller” is sort of the point. Your complaint doesn’t make any sense.

    What doesnt make any sense is the strawman standard you are trying to hold all pro-lifers to.

  53. this thread was jacked at post #2

    I disagree, it was jacked at #1.

  54. Joe,

    Sure it does. My point is this:

    When pro-life people claim that pro-choice people only want to kill babies (calling them babykillers), it carries about the same intellectual weight and depth of thought as when pro-choice people claim that pro-life people really only care about controlling women. That’s a claim you made. It’s a claim that is frankly assinine and beneath anyone here.

    I get your point that no one is shouting babykiller here. It doesn’t necessary follow that pro-lifers only care about controlling women.

  55. Abdul: But what happens to the extra soul when twins (either identical or fraternal) recombine into one embryo? 😉

    I didn’t mention souls, just unique persons. But to answer your question, ensoulment occurs “when the cell which generation has provided is ready to receive it as its principle of life.” (from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01046b.htm). Presumably, a cell which is to recombine is not ready to recieve a surplus soul.

    As for embryos which die prior to implantation mentioned in your article, that’s part of the natural process. It’s no more immoral for an embryo to die naturally through this process than it is for me to catch pneumonia and drop dead. And while some would mourn my passing, it’s hardly a tragedy to those who never knew me. Similarly, the death of an embryo which existed without the parent’s knowledge is no cause for sadness.

  56. “But, then, there really isn’t an angle related to controlling women here, so I don’t expect the pro-lifers to be consistent.”

    If you think that the only way to arrive at a position contrary to your own, one that a considerable number of people hold, is to be a moral monster without the soul necessary to know that controlling women is a bad thing, then you probably don’t understand the issue or your opponents’ position very well.

  57. Whatever, SIV. I’m sorry demonstrating your superiority over millions of people you’ve never met matters so much to you.

    robc,

    They’re not my standards, they’re not straw-man standards. The belief that a cell with a complete set of DNA that can be grown into a baby is a “person” is the genuine, principled position of pro-lifers. That’s why they criticized Bush’s federal funding ban, but not total ban, in National Review. That’s why the Catholic Church is opposed to In Vitro fertilization. Are you seriously pretending not to realize that “fertilized egg = person” is the self-stated position of pro-lifers?

    “From conception to natural death” – I suppose you’re going to tell me that’s a made-up strawman I’m applying to pro-lifers, too.

  58. Oh no. Now you guys have done it. One more step towards a Species sequil! Trying to control women was a fatal flaw in the logic, as shown in the original documentry.

  59. If a thread must devolve into discussions about a commenter, why not one more round of beating up on DONDEROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO?

  60. It was definitely a lame attempt at a joke, i.e., trying to be funny. And if it wasn’t a joke, care to explain it futher?

  61. kohlrabi,

    Fine, let me be more precise.

    Pro-life activists who claim to believe single cells capable of being grown into fully-developed humans are persons, with the moral status and human rights of persons, and who decry the destruction of such cells in this instance, are principled in their beliefs, and their motives cannot be said to revolve around controlling women’s bodies.

    People who decry abortion, but who don’t base their position on the supposed personhood of single cells, who have no problem with this technique, might or might not be primarily motivated by the desire to control women’s bodies and lives.

    However, people who claim that such cells are persons and would limit women’s reproductive choices, and yet have no problem with destroying such cells in this instance, are being logically inconsistent. I suspect that there will be quite a few such people, and can’t help but notice what makes the situations different.

    eoj,

    Who called anyone a monster?

  62. joe,

    The strawmen is that the subset of pro-lifers who think life begins at conception are really only opposed to abortion because they favor the subjugation of women.

    If you would use the word some instead of making blanket statements you wouldnt be smacked around so much. All definitive statements are wrong, including this one.

  63. Back in 2005 Wired had an absolutely fascinating article called How to Farm Stem Cells Without Losing Your Soul.

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.06/stemcells.html

    I’m no scientist, but I found it exciting.

    The picture of the fully developed molar smack dab in the middle of a tumor is well worth the click through.

  64. Sorry boys, the link didn’t take. So, here is the actual link to the Wired story called How To Farm Stem Cells Without Losing Your Soul.

  65. I suspect that a lot of people who base what they support and don’t support on “beliefs” are inconsistent.

  66. REINMOOSE, YOU ARE A MONSTER, SIR. A MONSTER.

  67. Personhood is only one element of the pro-lifer’s objections to embryonic stem cell research. Uniqueness is the other aspect.

    So we can kill all of the twins? Excellent, twins weird me out.

  68. joe,

    As you know, the controvery over stem cells is entirely a question of whether or not human embryos are destroyed to obtain them. The stem cells themselves don’t meet any definition of personhood, as they’re only a constituent of an already dividing embryo. Now, some of the terminology here is a little over my head (I needed to look up “somatic cells”), but it appears that this particular arm of research doesn’t involve anything deriving from embryos. It therefore doesn’t appear to enter the realm of metaphysical controversy.

    I mean to say here that it doesn’t make sense to accuse someone of logical inconsistency if they have no problem with this research, since the sticking point with such individuals is whenever embryos are involved. In this case, they aren’t, and stem cells, even those derived from embryos, aren’t themselves “human” or “potentially human,” depending on your metaphysics.

    My biology education stank, so I’m trying hard here to get this right.

  69. This is wonderful news. This has been weighing on me a lot, because I do believe in the sanctity of life and that sentiment pulls at me from both ends.

    If this technique pans we won’t have to make those kinds of ethical trade-offs.

  70. You’re a monster, URKOBOLD! A monster!

  71. Dustin,

    The problem comes in when people extend their definition of personhood all the way down the fertilized zygote – a single cell.

    The Pope’s opposition to in vitro fertilization is based on the proposition that a fertilized egg in a beaker is a person.

    Now, I may have gotten my biology a little messed up as well, but as I understand it, a cell capable of dividing into somatic stems cells can, in fact, develop into an embryo if implanted in a uterus.

  72. 1. End Federal Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    2. Ban Embryonic Stem cell research
    3. ???
    4. Control women

  73. There was a guy on Fox news talking about this. He pointed out that the four genes that were inserted into the skin cells were “cancer genes”, hence this new line of stem cells is not exactly risk free at this point.

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