Friday, July 24, 2009
Substitute for Embryonic Stem Cells Shows Promise
ScienceNow: Embryonic Stem Cell Substitute Passes Acid Test, by Gretchen Vogel:
Scientists have for the first time demonstrated that a possible alternative to controversial embryonic stem (ES) cells shares one of their key abilities. So-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can generate a live mouse in an experiment scientists say is the gold standard for pluripotency, the ability to become any cell type in the body. The feat, performed by two independent groups, suggests that iPS cells may be as powerful as ES cells, which many scientists hope will someday help cure a variety of diseases.
ES cells are prized by scientists for their flexibility. Taken from early embryos, they can in theory develop into all the tissues of the body. This talent makes them useful for studying--and perhaps someday treating--diseases. But because isolating ES cells involves destroying an embryo, they have proved ethically and politically controversial.
Many researchers believe iPS cells offer the best hope as an alternative....