Stem Cell Research

Stem Cell Disappointment—Culture War to Reignite?


stem cell derivation

The announcement that researchers were able to create stem cells from adult cells by inserting four genes was big hopeful news back in 2007. Hopeful because such cells would be immunologically compatible transplants for individuals and, more importantly, using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells would skirt the fight over the moral standing of stem cells derived from human embryos. A new study published in the current issue of Stem Cells finds that unlike stem cells derived from embryos, iPS cells grow old quickly and die. As Newsweek reports:

Compared with specialized cells produced from the 25 lines of stem cells derived from embryos, those from the eight populations of iPS cells in the study had significantly higher rates of death through a mechanism called apoptosis (which is basically a suicide program within the cells), higher rates of aging (senescence), and severely lower rates of growth. The retinal cells and blood-vessel cells in particular were about as sprightly as cells ready for a nursing home, and lost their crucial ability to continue dividing.

"We just couldn't get the cells to do what we wanted," [Robert] Lanza [chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology] told me. "At first we blamed ourselves, but then we looked at the cell markers and saw that the cells were aging much faster" than true embryonic cells. "There was a 1,000- to 5,000-fold difference" between the iPS cells' ability to keep growing and dividing and the true embryonic cells' ability, he says. "In terms of whether you can use the cells therapeutically or to study disease, that's the difference between getting the study to work and being dead in the water." Other scientists working with iPS cells have begun to see the same problems, Lanza says, suggesting that "this whole population of cells is screwed up."

The Newsweek article notes that some researchers think that maybe this problem can be overcome. (Just a thought—perhaps carefully reactivating the iPS cells' telomerase gene might put off senescence.) The Newsweek article concludes:

… however, "although there is excitement that iPS cells can serve as an embryo-free source of stem cells," says Lanza, "it would be premature to abandon research using embryonic stem cells until we fully understand what's causing these problems." The fight goes on.


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  1. Ah, shit. The skin-cell-to-stem-cell process would have avoided so many problems…

  2. it would be premature to abandon research using embryonic stem cells until we fully understand what’s causing these problems.

    Let’s apply the same principle to the question of whether embryos are human life: it would be premature to destroy embryos for dubious medical research until we’re sure that they’re not human life.

    1. most rational people believe dead embryos are not human life anymore than dead skin cells and dried cum on a rag are human life. hey don’t like it? then don’t use and benefit from the technology developed from embryonic stem cell research.

      1. If early indications are to be believed, it doesn’t look like there will be much technology to be used, so I’ll take that bargain. However, the destruction of human life is not something one can stand idly by and watch so long as one does not benefit from it.

        1. Tulpa – leave religion for the churches you retard

    2. So… when exactly are we going to be sure that they’re not human life? Oh never? How convenient…

  3. well Obama is in office and the dems still have a majority, so it seems that there won’t be much trouble from the feds over embryonic stem cells this year.
    but don’t discount that research may be able to get around this problem with some kind of fix, or by using some other kind of cell or technology.

    1. ^they probably need to find the right genes to insert or delete and this will no longer be a problem. but even so, one study may not be the last word on this; look for more studies that either confirm or disprove this study’s results.

      1. Scientists discover marker indicating the developmental potential of stem cells

        “We identified a genomic region encoding several genes and a large cluster of microRNAs in the mouse genome whose expression is high in fully pluripotent embryonic stem cells and iPS cells but significantly reduced in partially pluripotent iPS cells, indicating that the Dlk1-Dio3 region may serve as a marker,” said Qi Zhou, a researcher at the CAS Institute of Zoology and co-author of the paper. “No other genomic regions were found to exhibit such clear expression changes between cell lines with different pluripotent levels.”


        “The success rate of obtaining iPS cells with full pluripotency was still extremely low, which significantly hindered the application of iPS cells in therapeutics and other aspects,” Zhou said.

        Baby steps…(no pun intended)

        Ron: So far, in telomerase and ALT research, the problem with extending the telomere greatly increases the risk of rare cells; a line of rare cells becoming immortal is one thought to be one of the etiologies of cancer due to oxidative stress through generations of daughter cells via mutation. As of now, since the measuring of telometric length involving neutrophils (since they do not undergo mitosis) as predictor of age and life expectancy is very premature. So far, studies how lifestyle affects telometric shortening are rather scant and inconclusive.

  4. is is SUCH a piece of nonsense when someone says the Dem’s are in office and StemCells tech is protected. Bush is a far right nutso, whom only veto’d TWO Bills during his 8yrs. BOTH OF WHICH were REpublican Sponsored StemCell Funding Bills. I mean for GodSakes Orin Hatch fricken supports hESC research and EVERY thinking American Does. A Federal Funding bill for hESC research will be passed in 2010.

    feeed loves Lanza

    1. hey I am no fan of Obama, but him and many of the democrats, and a lot of the republicans as well (as you pointed out), support embryonic stem cell research. they are more likely to encourage stem cell research, not that I believe publicly funded research is the right way to go. don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the research, its the way they finance research. but my point is you are more likely to get federal funding for embryonic stem cell research with the dems and moderate republicans than with religious conservatives and neocons like Bush. as you point out Bush vetoed the stem cell bills even though it had wide bipartisan support, do you honestly think Obama would do that? I hate Obama but I’m not deluded enough to believe they would do what Bush did with stem cell legislation.

    2. conGratulations! You’ve topped LoneWhacko in the CuriousCapitalization category.

    3. tHIS makes YOU LOok Like A dUMbFUCK

    4. Gah! Camel Case makes my head hurt when it’s written in English!

  5. Don’t feeed the troll

    1. Don’t forgot to change your joke handle

  6. I guess this means that all my cells are no longer sacred.

  7. come on USA you can do it beat the world I live in Scotland and it is very difficult to find out what is going on except for Prof Willmut ( dolly the sheep) the newspapers cover is scant
    I have idiopathic axonal peripheral neuropathy for which there is no research in scotland?uk so i am relying on USA to get a move on the world is waiting

  8. Isn’t it also true that embryonic stem cell research has been rather disappointing so far?

    And before this thread turns into the standard Republican bashing, allow me to remind everyone that what Bush did was ban federal research on new embryonic stem cell lines. Existing lines were still OK, as was non-federal research. Somehow this often gets conflated to “banning stem cell research.”

  9. The United States should have a “Manhattan Style” project dedicated to Regenerative Medicine. Taking care of Sick people, disabled people, and filling the vacumme the dead leave behind is VERY Bad for the Economy. I would like to see 300Billion poured into Research. 400k for triple by-pass seems to be growing aheart would be cheaper and have longer lasting effects than messing around with an already damaged heart.


    feeed loves Dr,Lanza
    Check out our Google Group! 740members!…

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