For several years my sources in biotechnology have told me that the fight over the use of stem cells obtained by killing human embryos was meaningless, that stem cells taken from the patient’s own body were far more promising. The National Post reports:
The ethical deate over embryonic stem cell use may soon be moot, thanks to a Canadian team of researchers who, together with a team out of Scotland, has found a safe way to grow stem cells from a patient’s own skin.
The revolutionary finding, described in a paper published yesterday by the international science journal Nature, means doctors may be one step closer to treating a multitude of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes and Parkinson’s.
Someday, the regenerative and adaptive qualities of these skin-based stem cells could be used to repair damaged organs, bones and muscles, replace brain neurons and insulin-producing pancreatic cells, and even farm new organs for transplant use.
Stem cells taken from the patient’s own body are of course better adopted to that body:
…the scientists at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute used an electric shock to insert the reprogramming genes into a “jumping gene” – a transformative piece of DNA found in moths, corn and other species. This jumping gene can move around to different positions within the genome of a single cell and, once a skin cell is persuaded back to its embryonic state, the jumping gene can be removed to prevent any damage.
Also, because human stem cells – also known as “induced pluripotent stems” – are bred from the patient’s own skin, they pose no threat of immune rejection, mitigating another medical drawback of embryonic stem cell use.
The push to use embyonic stem cells therefore has no scientific basis. It is a Trojan horse to accustom the public to killing embryos for public benefit and to erode moral objections to abortion.