Stem Cells Archives

Widespread Adult Stem Cells

Adult stem cells may be more plentiful than we thought.

With the plethora of research and published studies on stem cells over the last decade, many would say that the definition of stem cells is well established and commonly agreed upon. However, a new review article appearing in the July 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal , suggests that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the nature, physiology and location of these cells. Specifically, the report suggests that embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the only source from which all three germ layers in the human body (nerves, liver or heart and blood vessels) can develop. The review article suggests that adult pluripotent stem cells are located throughout the body and are able to become every tissue, provided these cells receive the right instructions.

No need for the ethical minefield that are embryonic stem cells.

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    New Source of Stem Cells

    Your blood.

    Scientists at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood ("Human Finger-Prick Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Facilitate the Development of Stem Cell Banking"). The method also enables donors to collect their own blood samples, which they can then send to a laboratory for further processing. The easy access to blood samples using the new technique could potentially boost the recruitment of greater numbers and diversities of donors, and could lead to the establishment of large-scale hiPSC banks.

    Imagine a stem-cell bank much like a blood bank. There is truly no need at all to destroy embryos for stem cells. Using blood and skin, the supply is endless.

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      More Great Stem Cell News

      Back when Christopher Reeves was still alive and getting the word out on stem cell research, the big push was for embryonic stem cells to be used in that research. All those in-vitro fertilized eggs that didn’t get used were just waiting to be harvested and experimented on. There was just one thing. Pro-lifers, like me, considered them human embryos, simply an earlier form of a regular human life, and therefore considered destroying them for experimentation it on par with abortion, with the added baggage that we’d be, well, experimenting on them. Adult stem cells, even back then, had been proving their worth in many, many situations, didn’t have a tendency to become cancerous when used, and if properly fed and cared for, would never be anything other than adult stem cells. That is, they would never become a human being. The ethical baggage simply wasn’t there, especially for those who thought science ought to be, indeed, ethical.

      When President George W. Bush decided to limit the number of existing embryonic stem cell lines that could be used to experimentation, he did two things. First, he put a stake in the ground of scientific ethics; this far and no farther. Second, he lit a fire under the line of research that was trying to find a way to make adult stem cells, which cannot differentiate themselves in quite as many other kinds of cells as embryonic, just as flexible and changeable as their embryonic counterparts.

      Research has been advancing quickly, and results have been getting better and better, until last month, this bit of good news came out.

      Researchers have for the first time converted cultured skin cells into stem cells with near-perfect efficiency.

      By removing a single protein, called Mbd3, a team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, was able to increase the conversion rate to almost 100% — ten times that normally achieved. The discovery could clear the way for scientists to produce large volumes of stem cells on demand, hastening the development of new treatments.

      Almost 100%. From skin cells. Had we taken the easy way out, and not the harder, ethical one, A) the Left would not have branded the Right as “anti-science” over this. (Well, at least, not as much as they normally would.) And B) this research would not have continued at such a pace, allowing us now to produce stem cells at a rate we probably could not have done before.

      Anti-science, indeed. More like pro-ethical-science, especially when you can have your ethics, and stem cells, too.

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        Stem Cells From Skin

        (This is one of the segments of the most recent episode of my podcast, "Consider This!")

        On May 16th, Oregon Health and Science University scientists explained how they had managed to take skin cells, and inject them into a human egg that had its genetic material stripped out. Sounds something like cloning, but the researchers say that the procedure wouldn’t likely be able to make a clone. Still, the stem cells created are pretty much embryonic stem cells, and the organs that would be produced from them would not be rejected by the body from which the skin cells came.

        It was George W. Bush who had enough faith that science would find an alternative, and thus who decided to curtail the destruction of embryos as a compromise to banning embryonic stem cell research altogether. You have to wonder, too, if this sort of research into finding alternatives wouldn’t have been nearly as urgently pushed if the floodgates had been opened on the supply of frozen embryos back then.

        This proves 2 things. One, that George W. Bush was most definitely not anti-science. In fact, he believed scientists could research their way out of an ethical dilemma, while those who push for using existing frozen embryos, then and now, are putting expediency over ethics. And two, that market forces work, even in the scientific community.

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          Embryonic Stem Cells From Skin

          The latest breakthrough in stem cell research turns skin cells into stem cells just as useful as embryonic stem cells, without the ethical issues. Adult stem cells and induced stem cells, while still able to become many other types of cells, still had some limitations. Researchers are saying, however, that stem cells using this new method, are just like embryonic.

          We are getting to the point that using actual embryos is going to be completely unnecessary. It’ll be almost medieval to suggest using them, when skin (which is the largest organ in your body; did you know that?) are able to produce what’s required. I wonder how much the advance of methods to create embryonic-like stem cells was pushed forward by George W. Bush’s restriction of embryonic stem cell lines that could be used. Bush, then, was not anti-science, but pro-ethical-science.

          US researchers have reported a breakthrough in stem cell research, describing how they have turned human skin cells into embryonic stem cells for the first time.

          The method described Wednesday by Oregon Health and Science University scientists in the journal Cell, would not likely be able to create human clones, said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, senior scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

          But it is an important step in research because it does not require the use of embryos in creating the type of stem cell capable of transforming into any other type of cell in the body.

          The technique involves transplanting an individual’s DNA into an egg cell that has been stripped of genetic material, a variation of a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

          "A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells," said Mitalipov.

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            Friday Link Wrap-up

            No, the Bush tax cuts didn’t cause the recession. Yes, Obama’s "recovery" has been the worst in history. These and other economic realities can be summed up in this graph. (Click for a larger version.)

             

            A sex scandal involving adults and children under their charge. No, not the Catholic church of the 60s; the public schools of today.

            While he did get the number wrong, Romney was right in that those who pay the least in income taxes are the least likely to vote for him.

            The number of scientific papers that had to be retracted last year was a 10x increase over the rate during the previous decade. And a study of those retractions finds that 3/4ths of those retractions were due to misconduct rather than honest mistakes.

            Good news in the stem cell debate. "Two stem-cell researchers have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in cellular reprogramming, a technique that unleashed a wave of advances in biology, from cloning to the possible treatment of diseases using a patient’s own cells." That is, there is less of a reason to use embryonic stem cells, when adult ones will do just as well.

            Hedging their bets? "A survey by the Pew Research Center discovered that 2.4 percent of Americans say they are atheists and 3.3 percent say they are agnostic. Among the atheists and agnostics, however, 6 percent said they pray daily."

            Need more money for your school district, by proving how many students attend? Make them wear microchips. Privacy takes a back seat to cash.

            And finally, some apt scripture for the VP debate last night. (Click for a larger version.)

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              Turning Blood Cells Into Stem Cells

              The ability to make what are called "induced-pluripotent stem cells" (iPS) has been done before. What’s new now is that making them is becoming easier.

              Johns Hopkins scientists have developed a reliable method to turn the clock back on blood cells, restoring them to a primitive stem cell state from which they can then develop into any other type of cell in the body.

              The work, described in the Aug. 8 issue of the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), is "Chapter Two" in an ongoing effort to efficiently and consistently convert adult blood cells into stem cells that are highly qualified for clinical and research use in place of human embryonic stem cells, says Elias Zambidis, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of oncology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering and the Kimmel Cancer Center.

              "Taking a cell from an adult and converting it all the way back to the way it was when that person was a 6-day-old embryo creates a completely new biology toward our understanding of how cells age and what happens when things go wrong, as in cancer development," Zambidis says.

              "Chapter One," Zambidis says, was work described last spring in PLoS One in which Zambidis and colleagues recounted the use of this successful method of safely transforming adult blood cells into heart cells. In the latest experiments, he and his colleagues now describe methods for coaxing adult blood cells to become so-called induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPS) — adult cells reprogrammed to an embryonic like state, and with unprecedented efficiencies.

              Zambidis says his team has managed to develop a "super efficient, virus-free" way to make iPS cells, overcoming a persistent difficulty for scientists working with these cells in the laboratory. Generally, out of hundreds of blood cells, only one or two might turn into iPS cells. Using Zambidis’ method, 50 to 60 percent of blood cells were engineered into iPS cells.

              Click here for other stem cell stories that we’ve covered. The idea that embryonic stem cells are a must-have for research is a myth.

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                Adult Stem Cells: The Trend Continues

                This article at Life News describes recent grants & prize money that went to stem cell research.  There is something to note about how the money way divvied up.

                As noted in the earlier Lozier Institute study, the first round of grants under this category, in October, 2009, saw a marked departure by CIRM away from a funding preference for hESCR [human embryonic stem cell research] and towards adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research.

                That pattern continues in the July 2012 round of grants. Of eight research projects selected, only one involved hESCs while two involved the use of fetal tissue. The others used ethically non-contentious adult stem cells or other non-embryonic approaches. Of the $150 million awarded, $48 million went to the hESC and fetal tissue projects; the remaining $102 million went to the ethically non-contentious adult stem cell and other non-embryonic projects.

                Results are drawing the funding, not political hype, and the trend is away from embryonic stem cells.

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                  Friday Link Wrap-up

                  Yeah, haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been working on another side project that may or may not pan out. We’ll see. In the meantime, it’s time to play some catch-up on the wrap-up.

                  No, I don’t believe Obama was born in Kenya, but he certainly let that image get out years ago, and only recently stopped that. As late as 2004, even the Associated Press was referring to "Kenyan-born" Barack Obama. Laugh all you want at the birthers, but they at least had this sort of thing to back them up (for a while).

                  The Family Research Council has a count of the number of states that have legislated against same-sex marriage. Depending on how you choose what kind of legislation (law, constitutional amendment, etc.), the number changes, but here’s the biggie. "Number of states which currently (May 2012) grant marriage licenses only for unions of one man and one woman:   44" Remember that when you see polls about what people supposedly think about it.

                  And don’t try to press Martin Luther King into service to that particular cause. He followed his religion in this regard.

                  “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.” Their words.

                  Civility Watch: "Union Leader Takes Bat to Pinata Depicting Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.)"

                  Michael J. Fox realizes that stem cells, as good as they are, were never some magic cure-all.

                  Advances in the war:

                  A record-low 41 percent now identify themselves as “pro-choice,” down from 47 percent last July and 1 percentage point down from the previous record low of 42 percent, set in May 2009. As recently as 2006, 51 percent of Americans described themselves as “pro-choice.”

                  And speaking of the war, the actual, physical war on women by Planned Parenthood gets exposed by hidden camera videos. Predictably, the media yawns.

                  Further, "Congressional Black Caucus Upset By Pro-Life Black Americans". Those tolerant folks.

                  The Washington Post took 20 years to realize that Dan Quayle’s argument against the TV show Murphy Brown was right. It took Candace Bergen 10 years herself. And of course some of us knew that from the beginning.

                  And finally, oh, that liberal media.

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                    Could Stem Cells Become Moot?

                    Medical technology is reducing the need for stem cells.

                    In the laboratory skin cells were treated with a virus, which was modified to ‘infect’ them with agents that function to convert the skin cells into precursors to brain cells. These cells can specialise into the three types of brain cell: neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. After laboratory research was carried out, the converted cells were injected into the brains of mice. These mice were bred to lack the protein myelin, which is important in aiding the transmission of messages in the brain. 10 weeks later, the precursor cells had specialised into oligodendrocytes, which made the myelin that the mice lacked.

                    Skin cells directly to brain cells, do not pass Go, do not create ethical issues. (And creating myelin, which is something that someone like me with MS raises their antennae over.)

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                      This should carry more weight than, say, someone like me suggesting it.

                      The scientist who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep has urged fellow researchers to forego embryonic stem cell research — which he says is fraught with practical problems — and pursue more promising types of research.

                      That’s because he believes other research likely will overtake embryonic stem cell research.

                      Ian Wilmut spoke to a crowd of stem cell researchers Nov. 29 in La Jolla, Calif., telling them that because embryonic stem cells tend to lead to tumors, scientists should spend their time on non-embryonic forms of research, particularly on a new method called direct reprogramming. In direct reprogramming, scientists avoid stem cells altogether and, for instance, reprogram a skin cell directly into a nerve cell. Researchers have had success doing just that with lab mice. It has the support of ethicists who have opposed embryonic research.

                      "I’m not quite sure why this hasn’t been pursued more actively," said Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the sheep in the 1990s.

                      Follow the money, Mr. Wilmut. I have a feeling not even your credentials are enough to get this to happen. But we can keep trying.

                      The thing is, there is a vastly superior option, with none of the ethical or moral issues.

                      Wilmut’s speech was reported by the North County Times (Escondido, Calif.), which paraphrased him as saying direct reprogramming would provide the benefits of embryonic stem cell research without the risks. The government, he added, likely won’t spend money on embryonic research if a safer method is available.

                      If successful, direct reprogramming would turn the political and ethical debate upside down, making moot discussions over which types of stem cells are most promising. Wilmut was speaking in the same state where California voters in 2004 approved a 10-year, $3 billion investment into embryonic stem cell research. No cures have been found.

                      With embryonic stem cell research, scientists try to take stem cells from embryos and turn them into specific cells for the body. The process is opposed by pro-lifers because it destroys the embryo. In direct programming, scientists — in theory — would take a skin cell and simply reprogram it into, say, a nerve cell, without involving either embryos or stem cells of any kind.

                      In the results of one mice lab experiment released in 2010, fibroblast cells — found in connective tissue — were reprogrammed into nerve cells.

                      But again, it’s not about the science. It’s about the money that some companies want from the government. It’s also about the politics of abortion, attempting to soften the issue of killing a child with the thought that the stem cells might help someone. But the reality is, a child is still dying, and the harvested stem cells are full of problems.

                      And speaking of abortion, there’s a bill going through Congress that would ban abortions for the purpose of sex selection and based on race. But the opposition to this bill by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU and others shows that their supposed concern for non-discrimination doesn’t apply to the most vulnerable of us all.

                      As members of Congress hold a hearing today on legislation that would ban sex-selection abortions and abortions done if the unborn child is of a specific race, leading pro-abortion advocacy groups are strongly opposed to it.

                      Their opposition could explain why organizations like Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the ACLU almost never speak out against the horrible human rights abuses associated with the one-child policy in China – ranging from sex-selection abortions, to forced abortions, to coercive sterilizations and infanticides.

                      As members prepare to hear from experts on how the sex-selection abortion culture has made its way from nations like China and India to the United States, according to one study, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, ACLU and a total of 30 pro-abortion groups banded together for a letter opposing the legislation, the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act.

                      Feminists are up in arms about sex-selection abortions. OK, sorry, that was some wishful thinking. They ought to be, but aren’t.

                      Pro-life blogger Rebecca Taylor has noted that feminist groups frequently remain silent on the issue of sex-selection abortions.

                      “One may ask where are the feminists in the face of this disastrous practice that marginalizes all women?  Where are the champions of women and their reproductive rights?  They are mostly silent,” she said. “They championed choice and now that choice is being used to kill millions of female fetuses and subjugate women, they have nothing to say lest the sacred abortion cow be slaughtered.”

                      The principles upon which the Left stands, especially regarding science, ironically, are mostly politically convenient ones that fall away when the politics don’t work for them. Which suggests that they aren’t really principles at all.

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                        Vatican Back Stem Cell Research!

                        To those in the mainstream media, and those not paying attention (typically because they read only the mainstream media), this might be shocking. However, as GetReligion.org points out, it’s rather something of a yawner; the Catholic Church has always supported stem cell research. It’s just that the media conflate embryonic with adult stem cells so often, that to the casual reader it might indeed come as a surprise.

                        Terry Mattingly has the analysis. His group blog documents how the press covers religion. I’ve put this blog in my list to keep up with, and you should too.

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                          One Less Reason to Use Embryonic Stem Cells

                          A new study says that adult cells induced to become like embryonic stem cells ("induced pluripotent stem cells") are very nearly identical to the embryonic ones.

                          A study released Sunday shows embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are almost identical.

                          Since human IPS cells were first produced from mouse cells in 2006 and from human cells in 2007, it has been thought they were equivalent to embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are derived from human embryos.

                          But new research, directed by Josh Coon, a UW-Madison associate professor of chemistry and biomolecular chemistry, shows the proteins in the two types of cells are almost identical.

                          Stem cells have the ability to develop into any of the different types of cells in the body. In many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells.

                          There is really no longer any ethical or scientific reason to use embryonic stem cells. But scientists will continue to try, and to justify it ethically. Some do this by, ironically, casting moral aspersions on those of us who bring up the ethics issue. Writing at the First Things blog, Wesley Smith responds to a faculty level scientist at UC Davis who got upset at one of Smith’s articles on the ethics issue. It is amazing how tone-deaf some of these fellows can be. One imagines that if, someday, we were able to extract perfect stem cells from pine needles, they’d still insist on using embryos.

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                            More Good News on the Stem Cell Front

                            Adult stem cells, that is.

                            While highly potent embryonic stem cells are often the subject of ethical and safety controversy, adult-derived stem cells have other problems. As we age, our stem cells are less pliant and less able to transform into the stem cells that science needs to find breakthrough treatments for disease.

                            An exception to this can be found in the stem cells of oral mucosa, the membrane that lines the inside of our mouths. These cells do not seem to age along with the rest of our bodies. In his lab at Tel Aviv University’s Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine, Prof. Sandu Pitaru and his graduate students Keren Marinka-Kalmany, Sandra Treves, Miri Yafee and Yossi Gafni, have successfully collected cells from oral mucosa and manipulated them into stem cells.

                            Wounds in the mouth don’t scar; they heal by regeneration. The reasons for using embryonic stem cells keep dwindling.

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                              Friday Link Wrap-up

                              Kenyans have been winning marathons all over the world. The Dutch have decided to try and keep them out by only giving 1% of the prize money to any foreigners who win the Utrech Marathon. I don’t think that’s racism, but I do believe it’s wrong anyway.

                              Don’t bet your life on outrageous claims by proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Someone  has, though.

                              Civility Watch: The Left has been sending death threats to the eeevil Koch brothers. The wrong Koch brothers.

                              Civility Watch 2: Who said, "Civility is the last refuge of scoundrels" and "Let’s not be civil"? (And said it in the same paper that blamed the Giffords shooting on incivility from Republicans.)

                              Civility Watch 3: If a Republican had said this, he would have been called "racist" or "Islamophobic". But a member of the Obama administration said it, so no outcry.

                              Do iPads cause unemployment? Does Jesse Jackson, Jr. think we should have banned cars to keep the buggy builders in business?

                              Hanging a small cross inside your company van is a firing offense in the UK, apparently.

                              A death panel in Canada pronounced their sentence on a baby in Ontario by saying that life support should be removed, against the parents’ wishes. Instead, they brought him to a country that, so far, does not have a fully socialized system (that would be America), and the child did so well that he was weaned off the ventilator and is now back home.  It’s still touch and go, I imagine, but critics said he’d never get off mechanical breathing. Way to go, baby Joseph! (Which begs the question; if the US goes fully socialized, where will Canadians go for good health care?)

                              And finally, the same old song. (Click for a larger image.)

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