Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caution urged in new method for stem cells: Harvard sticks to cloning

The Boston Globe reports:

CAMBRIDGE - The stem cell wars are not over, say leading researchers at Harvard and other universities who believe that the cloning of human embryos still represents the key to developing effective treatments for an array of horrific diseases.

Recent weeks have seen spectacular breakthroughs in creating embryonic-like stem cells without making or destroying human embryos. Politicians, including President Bush, together with religious activists and some highly visible biologists have been quick to proclaim that the new technique for genetically "reprogramming" ordinary adult skin tissue into stem cells marks the moral high road to the future....

But researchers at Harvard, viewed by many as the world's leading center of stem cell research with some 750 lead scientists at 119 laboratories in the Boston area, are worried that a stampede to the new technique is a gamble that medicine can ill afford to make.

Although new reprogramming techniques are all but certain to yield giant advances in researching disease, they remain far too dangerous for actual treatment, the scientists say. The so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPS, made by the process may never be safe for humans, making it vital to maintain the pace of research on more controversial fronts.


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