An article by researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, published at the end of last month in Cell Stem Cell, presents a series of ground-breaking advances used to take skin cells, de-specialise them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), and re-programme them into muscle cells, overcoming drawbacks in earlier methods such as inefficiency and genetic interference that led to fears they might cause cancer.
The pro-life community has welcomed the breakthroughs as showing yet again how the advances in science are made without deliberate destruction of human embryos. It is to be hoped that Minister Harney and her officials will take this on boards as they prepare the legislation due out, we are told, before Christmas.
Robert Lanza, a stem cell researcher at Advanced Cell Technology, Worcester, Massachusetts, who was not involved in this study, commented, “All I can say is ‘wow’ – this is a game-changer. It would solve some of the most important problems in the field.’
Marius Wernig, from Stanford University, another stem cell researcher not involved in this study, if other researchers confirm their methods of generating iPS cells without any genetic modification, ‘then it would be a big advance’ and ‘would be the first practical method for generating iPS cells that could be used for transplant therapies.’
Kathrin Plath of UCLA, said the research was ‘very impressive’, and seemed to be the best way yet developed for generating iPS cells for transplant tissue. She said they would be trying out these techniques at UCLA.
Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, Japan, one of the original researchers who first produced iPS cells said the same, adding that the processes described in the article if validated could become the standard method for generating iPS cells.
You can watch Dr Derrick J. Rossi, lead researcher, explaining the breakthrough here
You can read the breakthrough article here