Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
Nature has a somewhat technical but free supplement on stem cells (alongwith a podcast and related blog).
The False Controversy of Stem Cell Research. Kinsley: In fact, thinking it through is a moral obligation, especially if you are on the side of the argument that wants to stop or slow this research. It's not complicated. An embryo used in stem-cell research (and fertility treatments) is three to five days past conception. It consists of a few dozen cells that together are too small to be seen without a microscope. It has no consciousness, no self-awareness, no ability to feel love or pain. The smallest insect is far more human in every respect except potential.
Thou shalt not make scientific progress. "Medical research is poised to make a quantum leap that will benefit sufferers from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, diabetes and other diseases. But George W. Bush's religious convictions stand in its way."
China hopes to make a great leap forward in Stem Cell Research Does anyone else find this a little troubling? Are all the clones going to look like Jiang Zemin?
In Canada, the creation of new stem cell lines from discarded embryos is now eligible for federal funding. And in the UK the first licenses to create new stem cell lines have been granted, as has governement approval to pursue therapeutic cloning. The chief executive of the UK's Medical Research Council predicts a "reverse brain drain" of stem cell scientists to the UK. If the US Senate votes to ban all human cloning this spring, even for research purposes, I suspect that America will lose a lot of great minds.
This breaking story brings a new aspect to a complex debate. Reasearchers in a private clinic in the US have created human embryos specifically for the purpose of extracting stem cells. This seems a good platform on which to discuss the wider issue of the interaction between public/private research funding, technology and life. Here's hoping it won't just end up a pro-life/pro-choice bloodbath.