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Stem Cells Generated From Adult Cells 190

DrJay writes "Scientist report that introducing only four genes to adult cells is sufficient to convert them to something that looks and acts remarkably like an embryonic stem cell. Although some of the details need to be worked out, if this technique is generally applicable, it may allow the production of an essentially unlimited supply of stem cells. There is a subscription-only report, and Ars Technica's science journal describes the results in some detail for those without subscriptions."
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Stem Cells Generated From Adult Cells

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  • by macadamia_harold ( 947445 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @02:59PM (#15980505) Homepage
    What about the rights of the innocent human cells killed in this process? Have these scientists no moral fiber whatsoever?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by buswolley ( 591500 )
      Got to call the line somewhere... Besides.. we kill our cells all the time in daily activities. I think the idea is that embryonic stem cells are the embryo's, and not the parents..

      In any case, this is great news. Adult stem cells do not get rejected by the body, unlike the other stem cells that come from a genetically different embryo.

      If this technology pans out, then this would both alleviates moral questions, and make for better treatments in one punch.

  • Fantastic! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:00PM (#15980518) Homepage
    I can finally grow myself a twin!

    Oh wait, I already am one.

    Quads it is then...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by krell ( 896769 )
      "I can finally grow myself a twin!"

      If it is the fifth (or later) season of the show, rest assured that this twin will be evil.
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:00PM (#15980519) Journal
    Didn't "Star Trek" have an episode about a guy who had this condition?
    • On slashdot, you don't have to put quotes around the words "Star Trek." Really. We are familiar with the show.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by IAmTheDave ( 746256 )
      If Star Trek had had stem cells, they may have been able to give Jordi true-color vision. You know, on top of his X-Ray, heat, infared, and gamma-ray vision.

      But, you know, ethics and Bible beaters all got in Jordi's way...
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by palindromic ( 451110 )
        You know, I never did understand that.. 300 years into the future, warp drives, replication, matter-energy transport.. little beam things you can heal peoples wounds with perfectly, and they still couldn't figure out how to give a black man some eyes? Geordi went around looking like he was headed to a 90's gay club for what, seven seasons? And I like how when he finally was able to have eyes in Star Trek: Whatever he had red LED lights on his temples and whited out pupils. Way to go RACE-Trek
    • Didn't "Star Trek" have an episode about a guy who had this condition?

      Didn't that exact post lead to a "+4, Funny" mod on at least a dozen other Slashdot posts?
  • ...because the same scientists want to take jeans off of them!

    I'll get my coat.

  • by the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:03PM (#15980548)
    So if you're a mouse, we have so many cures for you. We even have cures for most cancers. Wake me up when scientists figure out how to do this with human cells.
    • 92% the same.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by not-admin ( 943926 )
      Mice share around 92% of their DNA code with humans, and much of that is realted to shared functions...
      Why should nature re-invent the wheel?

      Something that works in mice is likely to work in humans as well.
  • Cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daeg ( 828071 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:03PM (#15980551)
    This will help kill some of the controversy if it actually works, but many in America still have an irrational fear of sciences that they do not, and can not, understand. People can understand that taking a pill makes you better even if they do not understand the "how" of the pill. They can understand that cutting into your leg to repair a bone with metal rods makes sense. Very few people, however, understand how stem cells may help medical science. Without helping them understand (politicians included), we still have a long way to go before the public openly accepts stem cell research and is comfortable in pumping large amounts of tax money into the research system.
    • Your body is made of lots of little parts. Most of your parts are screwed up. These can help make new parts to replace those broken parts. Any questions?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Frymaster ( 171343 )
        Your body is made of lots of little parts. Most of your parts are screwed up. These can help make new parts to replace those broken parts. Any questions?

        yes. what about the unborn babies??

    • Re:Cool. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:28PM (#15980770)
      Exactly - there were never any scientists with a burning need to tear apart embryos just because they seemed like nice spare parts to use. Embryos have unique properties as far as the way their cells can morph into other cells that just don't occur in adult stem cells. If these same properties can be reproduced otherwise, then embryonic research isn't an issue - but until that happens, banning the study of embryos is an important obstacle to scientific progress.

      The irony in all this is that if more embryos that were eventually destroyed without being studied, were instead studied, then these same properties that are important to medical research may have been discovered, allowing us to save more children from more horrible diseases.

      To me, the bans that are in place are the equivalent to old laws banning the study of dead bodies, because doing so reduces the sanctity of life.

      Ryan Fenton (I am not a lab scientist, just a computer guy who loves following science news)
    • but many in America still have an irrational fear of sciences that they do not, and can not, understand... Very few people... understand how stem cells may help medical science. Without helping them understand (politicians included), we still have a long way to go before the public openly accepts stem cell research and is comfortable in pumping large amounts of tax money into the research system.

      Are you talking about the Americans in the Federal government who are quite happy to fund all kinds of stem cell

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I understand how stem cells may help medical science in general. But I'm the type of American Bigot who fails to see how embryonic stem cells unrelated to the patient would help anybody at all. Add to that the fact that I've yet to see a single news story of embyronic stem cells curing any disease, but almost bimonthly now we have stories about adult patient donated stem cells curing that patient of something or another, I'd say the value of adult stem cells is well proven- and embryonic stem cell researc
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will this lead to our eventual ability to grow brainless human meat in vats, the most ethical meat we can cook up?
  • Human being (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tracer_Bullet82 ( 766262 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:10PM (#15980599)
    but.. but.. but.. that cell can turn into a living breathing human being.
    • Re:Human being (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GundamFan ( 848341 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:16PM (#15980657)
      If that is true... then this is human cloning... and that is even more of a no no.
    • or any other time, really. There's no valid scientific definition of life and death.

      This is what the stem cell debate is all about, really. Religious people feel that life is a holy, special thing, and that human beings are unique due to divine will.

      If a guy in a lab coat can take cells from inside my body and grow a new person, what makes me special? Life becomes just a mechanical process, a loose description for a certain type of interaction between atoms.
  • Gattaca (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:12PM (#15980622)
    See you can't even READ about it unless you've got money... so it starts...
  • by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:16PM (#15980655) Homepage
    But won't the bodies start to stack up fast? I mean, there are only so many hobos that one can kill for their stem cells. They could fit like 1000 embreyos in one Tupperware bowl. Now they will have to have an entire U-Haul truck rented to store all the hobo corpses.
    • Meh. Life is only sacred until it's born, remember? After it's born you can harvest all the stem cells you want!
    • Now they will have to have an entire U-Haul truck rented to store all the hobo corpses.
      Storage? Who said anything about storage? Leftovers get sent to the food pantry -- we need to make sure the specimens for our next harvest are well-fed.

      (Apologies to Jonathan Swift, or his descendents)
      • by RsG ( 809189 )
        (Apologies to Jonathan Swift, or his descendents)
        Shouldn't that read "dinner" rather than "decendants"? :-)
  • by Parallax Blue ( 836836 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:17PM (#15980667)
    The main problem with stem cell research (in the US, mostly) is the moral dimension. This method removes that, and may allow stem cell research to move ahead in the US, although it may be too late. Other countries are less concerned with the moral implications of embryonic stem cells (I believe The Economist had an article about stem cell research in Singapore recently) and are ahead of the US as a result. Can the US catch up fast enough using this method?

    There is also the possibility that any stem cell research will be very limited in the US for some time to come, regardless of the method. This is due to the current administration's attitude towards stem cell research, although the attitude may shift with a new administration in '08.
    • There are tons of ethical issues surrounding stem cells. Where we get them is just the first step.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
        Like? What are the issues with taking some of my cells and turning them into pseudo-stem cells to treat me?
        • Cloning! Even if you're just building something silly like a bladder, that's a whole host of issues. And what happens when we start using them to treat brain damage?
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
            Cloning? Cloning is making a fully functional person. I honestly don't see why anyone really cares, because it's an awfully expensive way of making a person.

            Making a bladder? Please. Don't use it if you want (there are people who refuse blood transfusions too) but get out of the way of the rest of us who want to be able pee properly during our retirement.

            I think people who argue against taking adult cells and growing people new bladders, legs, hearts, are going to find themselves soundly laughed at.
        • Also, I saw this one the other day, after the whole "we can take stem cells from embryo's without hurting the embryo" announcement...Some fundie immediately spouted up with the logic that that solitary stem cell could also grow into a person, therefore to use it was still to kill an embryo.
          • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )
            Interesting. Someone may correct me, but I doubt one of these stem cells could grow into a person. Also, you're not killing it. No cell is dying. They're all living! Moreover, they started out as part of me, now they're living as part of me!

            There was a tenuous claim to moral legitimacy with embryonic stem cells via a slippery slope argument (if we get dependent on embryonic stem cells there's always going to be pressure to harvest embryos). Opposition to using an adult's own cells to treat them loses
    • by fotbr ( 855184 )
      Research in the US can happen. Federally funded research might take a change in administration.

      Not all research has to be federally funded.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        True, but federal funding is usually extremely important to any major scientific research project. As long as the federal government withholds that funding, stem cell research in the US will be limited at best.

        The problem lies in the fact that it has become a political issue, and private investment is scared away as a result. There may be individuals that have enough money, but there's too much risk involved.

    • Can the US catch up fast enough using this method?

      It was your voters that RE-elected the fundamentalists. Now its time to reap what you sow.

      Actually I have been working on a theory. The whole world knows about the legendary corruption of US politicians. So I asked myself, why oh why don't foreign governments just make like a corporation and buy the politicans that would make as much of a mess as possible out of the US?

      Then I thought, hey maybe they already have! Massive debt, unneccesary wars, relig

  • Dunno about this... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chaffar ( 670874 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:18PM (#15980681)
    All I know is that this is gonna be used by the religious fr^H^H supporters to say "Aha ! We told you that killing embryos was wrong ! All we needed to do is to give this problem a little bit more thought ... Countless embryos have now been saved from your murderous hands !"
    Well if the news turns out to be true, then they'd be right :(...
    • In the normal scheme of science and engineering, you often have to meet requirements that you don't fully understand or even agree with. Meeting such requirements is rarely seen as admitting they were correct, think of it more as eliminating another hurdle.

      I really hope this works.

    • ... except any good quality study you can easily find on Google has shown that "religious fr^H^H supporters" have by a very large majority supported federal funding of embryonic stem cell research for quite some time.

      The problem isn't religious people, Christians, or even Evangelical Christians... no matter how you define the demographic, studies show they support it. So then, who is truly in opposition to it, and why? May it involve factors other than religion, ie: political infighting over the distribu

    • If they were right - if this does turn out to be a viable way to work around what many consider to be a moral or ethical dilemma and still reap the benefits - then isn't that a net good? Are you seriously suggesting that it would be *better* if people *hadn't* come up with a way to have an ethical clean slate AND do the research?

      What's funny is that you call the people who had objections - objections that may have turned out to be right - "freaks," but your stance seems to be much more dogmatic and close mi
  • This is good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:19PM (#15980688) Homepage
    The pie-in-the-sky type of results that people expect from stem cells may only be possible if we can produce these things in mass. This type of research may be the real key to viable stem cell treatments. If you want to grow back another limb, the only way to get enough genetic material is if your own body provides it.

    It would be very ironic if the fear of stem cell research is what yields its ultimate success.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thule ( 9041 )
      And this is exactly why there has been much more success with adult stem cells than there ever has been with embryonic ones. There have been real cures with adult stem cells because the body will accept something that it "knows," otherwise there are problems with rejection. I have my doubts that the embryonic cells can overcome this problem (but you never know).
  • I might be wrong, but would not the telomere be of way different length, shorter in the adult cell transformed into embryo cell, and a real embryo cell ? Meaning if (fiction speaking here) you grew an organ out of it, it would anyway be as old as you are right now ?
    • different biologic processes... basically what i've understood about stem cells is that they don't "grow an organ" rather they use the cells, which aren't specialized yet, to basically "regrow" your own tissues. So rather than transplant, give your body the cells it needs to rebuild itself.
  • This is great news if it pans out, but still, I'm going to have to do a lot of gritting-of-teeth to ignore the crowing from the pro-life crowd who are so, so happy about Sam Brownback's Amazing Dancin' Embryos being, um, kept alive until they get incinerated along with the rest of the medical waste.

    I'm all for whatever it takes to get nifty medical research going on, but that part's going to give me a goddamned headache.
  • by radarsat1 ( 786772 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @03:41PM (#15980912) Homepage
    Wicked, I had no idea Scientist [wikipedia.org] could do this kind of stuff. And he's a great musician.

    Strange though that he doesn't mention this kind of research on his myspace [myspace.com] page.
  • by neatfoote ( 951656 ) on Friday August 25, 2006 @04:34PM (#15981394)
    I find it amazing that many of the comments here are relatively negative in tone-- that people are still more interested in grousing about the religious right and their ridiculous ethics than they are in celebrating (however cautiously) an advance that may make it possible to reap the benefits of stem-cell research without compromising morals or sacrificing what some consider to be human lives.
      This development might offer a way for both sides to win. Should we really be feeling disheartened about that, like "Ugh, what if embryonic stem cells really aren't necessary, and they turn out to have been right all along?"? My impression was that supporting stem cell research was about being pro-science, not anti-religion.
    • by ndogg ( 158021 )
      It's because it doesn't change the fact that religion has hitherto suppressed scientific research. The time and money that has been spent on bickering over its morality could have been spent on research, and we could have been far more advanced in medical technology by now.
  • From Cell:

    > Differentiated cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic-like state by transfer of
    > nuclear contents into oocytes or by fusion with embryonic stem (ES) cells. Little is
    > known about factors that induce this reprogramming. Here, we demonstrate induction of
    > pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic or adult fibroblasts by introducing four
    > factors, Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4, under ES cell culture conditions. Unexpectedly,
    > Nanog was dispensable. These cells, which we desig

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