A newly developed method for producing stem cells that can mimic other cell types, could have wide reaching implications. The new process does not require controversial embryonic stem cells, and is speculated to have the potential to help cure diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s.
Dr. Andras Nagy, of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, is credited with the discovery. Dr. Nagy explains that “this new method of generating stem cells does not require embryos as starting points and could be used to generate cells from many adult tissues such as a patients own skin cells.” It’s well known that stem cells taken from human embryos, especially aborted fetuses, are both very useful and extremely controversial. It’s possible that this current finding could diminish the necessity of using these embryos.
The specific method found is also considered safer than previous stem cell techniques, in that it bypasses the necessity of using viruses to “deliver genes,” instead using “wrapping” to change normal cells into stem cells. This method creates what is known as pluripotent stem cells, which means they can behave as other types of cells (such as insulin producing beta-cells for diabetics, and regenerative cells that could help with Parkinson’s, maculardegeneration, and numerous other ailments). Dr. Nagy demonstrates optimism for his work: “We hope that these stem cells will form the basis for treatment for many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable.”
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Nagy, Andras. Luscombe, Nikki. Nature online news release. March 2008.