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Embryo-free Embryonic Stem-Cells
June 7, 2007 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Simple switch turns cells embryonic. "Researchers have finally hit the jackpot: Embryo-free embryonic stem-cells!"
posted by homunculus (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sweet
posted by 517 at 12:07 PM on June 7, 2007


Will they be available as a mix-in for my ice cream?
posted by The World Famous at 12:10 PM on June 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is this the same trick that could cause cancer in humans?
But these so-called “iPS” cells still showed significant differences from embryonic stem cells. The three new papers report on creating iPS cells that proved virtually identical to stem cells in a variety of lab tests.

The technique used in the mouse studies could promote cancer in any patients getting therapy based on iPS cells, so researchers emphasized that a new approach that avoids that hazard would have to be developed.

Gearhart called that a major issue to be resolved. In addition, he said, scientists still must show that these cells can give rise to many cell types in the lab, as embryonic stem cells can.
posted by SansPoint at 12:11 PM on June 7, 2007


Shit! We'd better cook up a new way to prevent the march of scientific progress, now that stem cells don't necessitate murder anymore.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2007


Yeah, this is good. But it's really sad that scientific progress has to be hampered by tiptoeing around the anti-science fundamentalists. This wouldn't be as big of a deal if we didn't have to deal with them.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:12 PM on June 7, 2007


err, since harvesting stem cells doesn't necessitate murder that is
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:13 PM on June 7, 2007


All potential embryonic stem cells must immediately be turned into actual embryonic stem cells so they can be protected!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2007


YAY! We be not killing babies no more!

Now maybe all those rich right wing Christians nut bags will stop hurting the science and see how they really WILL be able to live forever.

Oh. Wait a minute.


Snark aside this is very cool.

Of course so far the benefits only seem to apply to mice.

Holy shit. IMMORTAL MICE!
posted by tkchrist at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the second link in explanation why this is better than other methods of harvesting stem cells:

This will lead to animal-human hybrids? The reason for considering this method was based on the greater availability of animal eggs for use in therapeutic cloning, which would no longer be necessary.

What? Did people really suggest that using stem cells was going to create hybrids? Perhaps they were watching too much Dark Angel and thought the whole transgenic warrior thing was a little too scary.

Seriously, if animal-human hybrids was ever brought up then we have officially taken this FUD thing to a whole new level.

Otherwise this is good news. Yay for science. (Assuming they can make it work in humans.)
posted by quin at 12:15 PM on June 7, 2007


Wonder if Nancy will feel tricked...
posted by hermitosis at 12:17 PM on June 7, 2007


We'd better cook up a new way to prevent the march of scientific progress, now that stem cells don't necessitate murder anymore.

There's always evolution.
posted by homunculus at 12:23 PM on June 7, 2007


Okay, that was dirty. I should have linked to this instead. Seriously, if someone breaks party lines to step forward for something like this, what happens when alternatives begin to spring up?
posted by hermitosis at 12:23 PM on June 7, 2007


(Note to self: Was this caveat ever used when explaining successful somatic cell nuclear transfer [SCNT] results in animals?)

a) Yes. b) "note to self"? Talk about professional science writing...
posted by delmoi at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2007


What? Did people really suggest that using stem cells was going to create hybrids? Perhaps they were watching too much Dark Angel and thought the whole transgenic warrior thing was a little too scary.

Maybe you need to watch less Dark Angel and read more about science. They're referring to chimeras here, and there are plenty of non-religious ethical concerns with these "hybrids."
posted by TungstenChef at 12:28 PM on June 7, 2007


The down-side is that Dream Theater will have to re-write their big stem-cell research song, The Great Debate. (youtube pt1, pt2)

Maybe they can make it about puppies or LOLCATs or something, which would be an improvement.

Huge DT fan, love the music, but the lyrics... sheesh!!
posted by LordSludge at 12:29 PM on June 7, 2007


I wonder if this would have been discovered if Bush hadn't limited stem cell research. I guess probably, but not as quickly.
posted by logicpunk at 12:33 PM on June 7, 2007


If they shoot me a line of that will I grow an arm? I've already got two, I could just use a third to change radio stations when I'm driving a standard.
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:36 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


this sounds pretty damn big. besides the obvious benefits of unlimited supplies of controversy free stem-cells, the implications are pretty cool...
posted by es_de_bah at 12:38 PM on June 7, 2007


I am immediately skeptical of scientific reporting where researchers "hit jackpots". There's no guarantee those genes work the same way in humans, or if there are massively bad side effects.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:40 PM on June 7, 2007


krinklyfig writes "Yeah, this is good. But it's really sad that scientific progress has to be hampered by tiptoeing around the anti-science fundamentalists."

Well, there are plenty of reasons outside of political/religious considerations to pursue new methods for obtaining embryonic-stem-cell-like cells. For instance, in most therapeutic applications, you would want to have stem cells that genetically match the patient. The traditional approach (and an approach that hasn't yet successfully been performed in humans) is to transfer the nucleus of a cell from the patient to a "donor" egg cell. This is a difficult process, complicated by the fact that donated human egg cells are not very easy to come by (Hwang ran into a raft of ethical problems on top of his fraud seeking to obtain egg cells). This technique avoids these complications.

Plus, there's a value to fundamental science in doing this work. The researchers are learning important things about the genes that control the fates of cells during development and the "potency" of stem cells (the ability of these cells to become other types of cells). This fundamental understanding will be essential to the development of stem-cell-based therapies, particularly in guaranteeing that transplanted stem cells behave as we want them to instead of turning into tumors.


TungstenChef writes "They're referring to chimeras here, and there are plenty of non-religious ethical concerns with these 'hybrids.'"

quin isn't referring to chimeras (individuals containing two genetically distinct cell lines), but to hybrid cells created by transplanting human nuclei into animal cells. These cells would contain human nuclear genetic material but animal mitochondrial genetic material. Weird.

Blazecock Pileon writes "There's no guarantee those genes work the same way in humans, or if there are massively bad side effects."

When it comes to cutting-edge research, guarantees are few and far between.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2007


I wonder if this news is being circulated frantically in order to undermine the importance of congress's current fight , especially since it's the main story on CNN right fucking now.
posted by hermitosis at 12:45 PM on June 7, 2007


> Maybe they can make it about puppies or LOLCATs or something, which would be an improvement.

Hyperethical fuller would not murder a LOLCAT, even to live forever. LOLCATs are people too.
posted by jfuller at 12:53 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


hermitosis writes "I wonder if this news is being circulated frantically in order to undermine the importance of congress's current fight , especially since it's the main story on CNN right fucking now."

They know Dubya will thow a veto at this.

The democrats are (wisely) pushing bills they know Bush will veto. It's a machiavellian strategy designed to force the republicans to vote again and again with their albatross of a sub-30% approval ratings president. These votes will like daggers in the eyes of republicans seeking (re)election in 08. It's awesome.
posted by mullingitover at 12:56 PM on June 7, 2007


More research: Mice cloned using fertilized eggs.

The lead researcher, Kevin Eggan, was the subject of this article on the difficulties in doing stem cell research in the US: The 'untouchables' of US science.
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on June 7, 2007


It's a machiavellian strategy designed to force the republicans to vote again and again with their albatross of a sub-30% approval ratings president. These votes will like daggers in the eyes of republicans seeking (re)election in 08. It's awesome.

Wasting congressional time and money on bad legislation designed solely to make the other party look bad? Awesome, indeed. I sure hope those Machiavellian Democrats get the crooks out of office so that they can use equally Machiavellian tactics in the White House. The ends justify the means, right?
posted by The World Famous at 1:08 PM on June 7, 2007


Well, the Democrats are at least (in many cases) fulfilling campaign promises by passing the legislation that their constituents want. That Bush asses himself and his party by constantly stamping out bills that have a load of popular approval is a convenient byproduct of this.

What is the alternative? To not waste any time or money fulfilling campaign promises that they knew would just get vetoed, and then in 2008 have to convince the voters that they really, really would have passed things if there had been a prayer of them getting past Bush, honest?
posted by hermitosis at 1:14 PM on June 7, 2007


Oh, you mean like the Iraq deadline?
posted by Snyder at 1:19 PM on June 7, 2007


I'm glad FSM finally got with the program and helped the scientists figure out a way to do this. I picture a lab a lot like the cobbler's workshop.
posted by OmieWise at 1:24 PM on June 7, 2007


Will they be available as a mix-in for my ice cream?

More importantly, will they be as tasty as fresh baby smoothies?
posted by homunculus at 1:29 PM on June 7, 2007


Did I miss something, or is
"Baby Smoothie" Jon Stewart's new nickname?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:38 PM on June 7, 2007


It's a joke he makes between 2:00 and 2:20.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on June 7, 2007


Wasting congressional time and money on bad legislation designed solely to make the other party look bad? Awesome, indeed. I sure hope those Machiavellian Democrats get the crooks out of office so that they can use equally Machiavellian tactics in the White House. The ends justify the means, right?

In this case, yes, they do.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2007


The ends justify the means, right?

In this case, yes, they do.


Awesome. What's the rule on that? How can I tell when ends justify means?
posted by The World Famous at 2:02 PM on June 7, 2007


The World Famous writes "Awesome. What's the rule on that? How can I tell when ends justify means?"

This is the subject of a field called "ethics". It has be written on extensively.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:15 PM on June 7, 2007


The World Famous writes "Awesome. What's the rule on that? How can I tell when ends justify means?"

This is the subject of a field called "ethics". It has be written on extensively.


The reason you may not have found material is that it looks like you may be searching in the congressional record. You won't find any references there.
posted by Brak at 2:29 PM on June 7, 2007


But the iPS cells aren't perfect, and could not be used safely to make genetically matched cells for transplant in, for example, spinal-cord injuries.

Oh well.
posted by stbalbach at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2007


It's a machiavellian strategy designed to force the republicans to vote again and again with their albatross of a sub-30% approval ratings president.

This is the subject of a field called "ethics". It has be written on extensively.

Machiavelli and ethics. When I try to decide which ends justify Machiavellian means, should I be reading the extensive ethics writings in The Prince, or elsewhere?

Remember how the ends of getting a bad regime out of power once was used as justification for the U.S. starting an endless, unwinnable war? I'm thinking that maybe the ends don't actually ever justify the means. But then, I probably have a lot of reading to do.
posted by The World Famous at 3:33 PM on June 7, 2007


hermitosis writes "Well, the Democrats are at least (in many cases) fulfilling campaign promises by passing the legislation that their constituents want. That Bush asses himself and his party by constantly stamping out bills that have a load of popular approval is a convenient byproduct of this."

Bingo.
posted by mullingitover at 5:00 PM on June 7, 2007


Ok The World Famous, time for a hypothetical.

You are standing next to a railway switch. Barreling down the track is a packed commuter train. With the switch as it is now, the train will plunge into a flooding river that has washed away the railway bridge, hundreds will die. Alternately, you can throw the switch, which will divert the train straight into a station wagon filled with nuns and puppies, which has become high centered on the rails in an attempt to flee the rising waters.

What do you do? If the ends never justify the means, I think it's pretty clear that you are obligated not to act. After all, you would have caused the unjustifiable deaths of several nuns, and an indeterminate number of puppies.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:13 PM on June 7, 2007


So, you're saying the Democrats made campaign promises to kill a station wagon full of nuns and puppies?
posted by The World Famous at 5:17 PM on June 7, 2007


Precisely.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:19 PM on June 7, 2007


Well, it's nice that their promise to kill the nuns and puppies coincided so nicely with the train barreling down the track. Imagine what would have happened if we had voted for the Democrats to do nasty things and those nasty things didn't end up accomplishing anything!
posted by The World Famous at 5:29 PM on June 7, 2007


Point taken, however, you have still failed to answer my question. What would you do in my scenario? Do you let the passengers on the train plunge to their watery graves?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:40 PM on June 7, 2007


Can't I kill the nuns, the puppies, and the train passengers? And isn't your hypothetical really just a justification of collateral damage?

Look, I'm not interested in a debate about ethical hypotheticals. If the only way that the Democrats could accomplish the just result of ending our recent national nightmare was to engage in Machiavellian chicanery that would be one thing. But the philosophy that all tactics are justified in politics if they help the "good guys" gain power is the reason there are no good guys in politics. Moral relativism and hair-slicing ethical dilemmas may make for a good plot on 24, but in the real political world it's a convenient excuse for unethical rich people to gain more and more power, all the while pretending they had no choice but to kill the car full of nuns, because if they didn't, the evil other political party would have remained in or gained power.

If the Democrats are doing good things because they like to do good things and promised in their campaigns to do good things, then good for them. But if they're engaging in "a machiavellian strategy designed to force the republicans to vote again and again with their albatross of a sub-30% approval ratings president," then I can do without it and without them. I'm not in the mood for Machiavellian leadership in U.S. politics, thanks. Lorenzo il Magnifico was nothing if not effective, but I'd prefer not to see any ousted Republicans disemboweled and hanging from the Speaker's balcony.
posted by The World Famous at 6:21 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig writes "This wouldn't be as big of a deal if we didn't have to deal with [anti-science fundamentalists]."

No, this is still a big deal. Cloning to produce embryonic stem cells is about 1% successful. If we need cells from you to fix a problem, we'd need hundreds of eggs and surrogates to get your clone. If they can figure out how to control the cells, with this method all they need is a skin sample and a Petri dish.

In terms of animal research, refinement of technique to reduce animal usage is mandated by law. This is one hell of an exciting refinement that will certainly result in a major reduction of animal usage while still granting us some spectacular potential benefits. Biopsy --> Cells in a dish --> potential for stem cell therapy? Everyone wins.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:50 PM on June 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


is there a switch i can throw that will save the commuters and the puppies, but waste the nuns?
posted by bruce at 12:50 AM on June 8, 2007


I wonder if this news is being circulated frantically in order to undermine the importance of congress's current fight , especially since it's the main story on CNN right fucking now.
posted by hermitosis


Well, possibly. However, this breakthough, and also that of Kevin Eggan's group, has been published just in time for a big international stem-cell conference in Oz.

Like "caution Live frogs", I would add that creation of EScells by SCNT is very, very inefficient and new routes to such cell-lines are of great interest both scientifically and also from the standpoint of possible future medical treatments.
posted by Enucleator at 1:44 AM on June 8, 2007






What if we substituted the nuns and puppies with sanitation workers and koala bears? mallwalkers and squirrels? Accountants and lolcats?
posted by ZachsMind at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2007








Majority of IVF Users Willing to Donate Excess Embryos for Stem Cell Research

So there are actually 400,000 extra frozen embryos in the US, not 40,000 as the link above this one claimed.
posted by homunculus at 10:31 AM on June 23, 2007


My fellow Christians are increasingly creeping me out and embarrassing me. I'm half tempted to turn aetheist, simply because I do not want to be included in their number when the saints come marching in. Cuz those saints are gonna laaaaaaaaaugh!
posted by ZachsMind at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2007


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