Stem Cell Misconceptions
Adult stem-cell research is promising — but already fully funded. And only embryonic stem cells can be turned into other types of body cells to replace damaged tissues. That’s why researchers are so intent on using them.Current research indicates that embryonic stem cells may not be the only cells that “can be turned into other types of body cells” (the technical term for this is “pluripotency”). Researchers in California claim to have created pluripotent cells by reprogramming human “germ cells”, cells taken from the reproductive organs of adults…
May 9, 2006–Publicly addressing the company’s breakthrough in stem cell research, PrimeGen Biotech LLC (www.primegenbiotech.com) today announced that its principal investigator will present data showing the isolation and therapeutic reprogramming of adult germ-line stem cells into pluripotent cells — cells that have the potential to turn into any cell line of the body.The PrimeGen research is still undergoing peer review. Also, back in April, Reuters reported on a research group in Germany that has created pluripotent cells from the germ cells of mice, though not from humans yet.
At this time, therapies using “pluripotent germ cells” are only potential, just as therapies using “embryonic stem cells” are only potential. So what’s needed to turn the potential into reality? Well, almost every summary of the topic that I’ve found so far (including Senator Coburn’s remarks) says that the biggest roadblock to the theraputic use of embryonic stem cells is the issue of rejection. If pluripotent cells can be created from germ cells, the rejection issue is solved, as the material needed for celluar therapy can be created from the body of the person needing the therapy. If there is a more promising path around the rejection issue, no one is talking much about it.
Finally, I am unsure of what the meaning of “already fully funded” is in the context of adult stem cell research. Does this mean that everything scientifically that can be done is being done? Or does it only mean that we’ve hit a politically-determined limit on how much is spent on adult stem cell research?