Monday, April 03, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cells from Adult Human Cells - Already?

Science doesn't usually move this fast.

It seems like just last week that I wrote about German scientists who managed to generate embryonic stem (ES) cells from mouse testes. I thought then that it would take a significant amount of time to accomplish the next step of duplicating these results in humans (several months or years if ever).

Well, once again I was wrong. (Although, in this case, I don't mind.) As was reported here, the next step seems to have already been taken. A private company in my old stomping grounds of Irvine, CA (The OC) have isolated cells from human testes and generated ES cells that they then differentiated into "heart, brain, bone, and cartilage cells". That's a pretty good start. As, I wrote last week, this discovery could totally change the way stem cell technology is viewed. It almost certainly will render it less controversial.

One fear I have is that this discovery could further erode the momentum (I don't know if it can even be called 'momentum' anymore anyway) that overturning the ban on ES cell research funding had had in Congress. (Senator Frist? Hello?)

It is, however, important to note that these findings have only been presented at a conference and have not been peer-reviewed for publication. And, as before, only men would be able to benefit from stem cells taken from testes (a similar source for female stem cells still need to be identified). But, if it is legitimate we've taken another huge step towards new treatments of all manner of diseases.

And it only took a week!

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