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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Science, Stem Cells and Uncertainty – The Evidence Demonstrates that Faux Stem Cells Are Not a

Certainty is valuable. Just ask entrepreneurs making decisions on where to invest or seeking to sell future cash flows for a multiple of earnings.

Or, ask insurers pricing risk premiums. Put aside mere money. Consider doctors or scientists seeking to predict the success of any particular treatment for any given disease. Consider the patient wondering if he or she will, for example, remain paralyzed for life, or whether stem cells may help to cure Alzheimer’s, cancers or other diseases.

Now consider the impact of the news that experiments by smart researchers at UCSD further prove the folly of depending on faux stem cells (“ induced stem cells or iPS). The iPS cells are the faux stem cells touted by the religious right as an alternative to true stem cells from embryos. The latest research results were publicly announced last Friday, and are now moving through the news cycle. Nature’s press article is here, Andrew Pollack’s NYT article is here, and the full Nature paper is here. Key excerpts are pasted below from Nature’s press article.

Implications ? On the money side, the uncertainty plainly will slow progress in research and investment in iPS cells in particular. On the human sides, that means more patients will die or suffer while waiting even longer for answers.

The implications also are broader. The Catholic Church now faces a new set of challenges and questions as it seeks to limit science based on its “moral” view. And, right wingers will face a new set of challenges for the 2012 elections whne they argue to limit science. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Cells that have been reprogrammed to grow into different types of tissue might be rejected by the body — even when they are transplanted into the individual from whom they are made, researchers report in a study published today in Nature.

The study was led by Yang Xu, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Diego. It will shake up the regenerative-medicine field, because until now, most scientists have assumed that reprogrammed cells made from an individual’s own tissue could be safely transplanted back into the same person.”

"This is a surprise; it’s going to put a spanner in the works for the whole field," says Paul Fairchild, an immunologist and stem-cell biologist at the University of Oxford, UK. The latest study looked at mouse embryonic stem cells and mouse induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Both types of cell are pluripotent, meaning that they can grow into many other cell varieties.”


“The finding comes on top of the publication of a spate of studies suggesting that iPS cells might contain more genetic abnormalities than embryonic stem cells.. The US Food and Drug Administration heard concerns about genetic mutations in iPS cells at a meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, in March.”

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