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."
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]
grumblebee's post about cell size and scale
the other day was quite fascinating. Pulling back to the home for that site, the Genetic Science Learning Center
at the University of Utah delivers educational materials on genetics, bio-science and health topics ranging from stem cells
to gene therapy
, and from epigenetics
. Explore the neurobiology of normal and addicted brains
and the genetic contribution to this chronic disease.
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
Scientists have discovered that "endometrial regenerative cells" (ERC's)
-- in other words, human menstrual blood -- contains stem cells
. ERC-derived stem cells seem to have a number of superior traits
to both bone marrow derived and umbilical cord derived stem cells, the previous gold standards: they can give rise to a variety of different cell lines without differentiation, they multiply more quickly than other stem cells, they are able to replicate more times without adversely mutating, and they apparently do not need to be closely genetically matched to the recipient. Now some women have even begun banking their menstrual blood
to preserve their stem cells through a company called "C'Elle: Your Monthly Miracle"
-- check out their FAQ
and online video
. This follows last May's announcement that menstrual blood derived cells can pretty much cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in mice
, a disease for which there is no current therapeutic treatment available.
After recent promising results
demonstrating the ability to change mouse skin cells into stem cells, researchers have replicated this change in human skin cells in papers published in Science
(access to full articles requires subscription) . The White House, somehow, is trying to take credit
for this. The potential of all this: huge.
Stem Cell Treatment in China.
A site showcasing Beike Biotech
, a company that seems to be getting
more attention nowadays, with a very straightforward approach
Meanwhile, some recent hard science
Canadian scientists heal spinal injuries with stem cells from skin
(in rats). "Over the course of their research, the team found that skin-derived stem cells share characteristics with embryonic neural stem cells, which generate the nervous system. ... After 12 weeks, the rats were able to walk better, with more co-ordination." [more inside]
I'm sure everyone remembers last year's kerfuffle about Hwang Woo-Suk, the disgraced scientist who fraudulently claimed to have created human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Well, it turns out he actually did something more remarkable - he created human stem cells from unfertilised eggs by parthenogenesis
. The verification of this was published with a suitably dry title
for consumption by scientists, but the popular press was quick to jump on more loaded phrases
has a somewhat technical but free supplement
on stem cells (alongwith a podcast and related blog
Come out, experts from the woodworks!
Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc are sugars found on cells present in nearly every mammal, from chimps to pigs. When scientists altered the genes of mice so that they couldn't produce them, the mice died. However, unlike our closest relatives, humans lack a gene that makes Neu5Gc. The gene is not gone, but rendered silent by a fatal mutation, one that occured approximately 500,000 ago. Now, note that it is illegal to produce any new embryonic stem cell lines. Any scientist will tell you that extant and legal human stem cell lines have been existing in calf serum and often on layers of mouse "feeder" cells for growth. As such, they are immersed in a bath of antigen and if re-introdcued would elicit a strong immune response. I.e. although of human origin, they would be treated as foreign cells if injected. It is likely they would be rejected if injected with today's techniques anyway, but this may represent another significant hurdle for research, one that could be sidestepped with more progressive policy. (Via The Regular
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."
Scientists in Singapore have grown 'clean' human embryonic stem cells
which would pose no threat of infection by animal pathogens if transplanted. Previous ESC lines were mixed with animal cells
. Meanwhile in the US, surprisingly little has been accomplished with ESCs in the last year due to the chilling effect of the political controversy
. And because of Bush's decision a year ago, any new 'clean' ESC lines could not be be used in federally funded research.
Controversial new bill
to lay out reproductive technology guidelines. Canadian version of this battle doesn't seem to feature as many religious wackos. It's just not as fun without them.
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.