Stem cell stories, times two
Human embryonic stem cells grow slowly.
In another breakthrough in stem cell research, scientists have developed non-embryonic stem cells that are more easily manipulated.
Compared to embryonic stem cells from mice, human embryonic stem cells (harvested from living human embryos, which are then discarded)—when used for lab research—are difficult to work with. For example, unlike embryonic stem cells from mice, human embryonic stem cells grow slowly, making it more difficult to generate genetically modified human stem cell lines.
Now, a team from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine has used a growth factor discovered in work with the mouse cells and has employed it the propagation of human stem cells. However, rather than using embryonic stem cells, the researchers derived pluripotent human stem cells by reprogramming adult cells. When the growth factor was applied, the cells were much easier to work with, which will enable targeted changes in specific genes.
Once again, we have an example of stem cells created and employed in research purposes without requiring the destruction of viable, living human embryos. Answers in Genesis fully supports this program of life-honoring, successfully used stem cell research—which shows the needlessness of continued embryonic stem cell research.
While some researchers continue to expand the flexibility of stem cells derived from adult cells, others are successfully using such adult-derived stem cells in the hopes of curing disease.
A team at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is using adult-derived stem cells to study one of a family of heart conditions known as cardiomyopathy. The scientists collected skin cells from two individuals with a genetic disorder that commonly leads to a dangerous thickening of the heart muscle. The team then reprogrammed these cells to become pluripotent stem cells (functionally similar to the stem cells controversially harvested from human embryos, which are, thus, destroyed).
From there, the scientists created heart cells with the cardiomyopathic characteristics of the individuals. Although researchers have a general understanding of what leads to the disease genetically, they do not yet know how this leads to the actual, life-threatening cardiomyopathic symptoms. “We knew there was potential in using pluripotent stem cells from people with genetic disorders to develop diseases in vitro, but our study is the first to successfully create abnormal heart cells,” explained study leader Ihor Lemischka “Now that we have developed these cells, we can study why they become enlarged and develop treatments to prevent them from overgrowing.”
As with the previous news item (#2a), the research shows us that stem cells derived from adult cells—and, hence, gathered without the destruction of human life—can be at least as effective, if not far more so, as embryonic stem cells in disease research and treatment.
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