- (Photo: Nature / Dr. Qi Zhou)
Two teams of Chinese scientists have reportedly made a major advance in the development of a new kind of stem cell that doesn't involve destroying embryos.
For the first time, researchers say they were able to produce live mice from stem cells that were induced from skin tissue of adult mice and then reprogrammed. And while there were abnormalities and unusual deaths with some of the first generation of mice, one team produced enough normal mice this way to create hundreds of second and third generation mice.
"We demonstrated the practicality of using iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells)," said Fanyi Zeng, associate director of the Shanghai Institute of Medical Genetics and co-author of the larger, more successful study.
Though authors of the study, which appears in the scientific journal Nature, and a second that appears in the journal Cell Stem Cell, cautioned against making premature conclusions as there’s “a lot more [to do] before we can even mention humans,” news of the work was hailed as important because they show that the new type of stem cells "satisfy the most stringent criteria of embryonic stem cells - the ability to make a mouse entirely from cells in a petri dish," as Dr. George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Children's Hospital of Boston told The Associated Press.
That’s especially good news for those who are against embryonic stem cell research, which has been the source of great controversy in the United States and elsewhere.
Though in recent years there have been several reports regarding the potential use of human embryonic stem cells as models for human genetic diseases, many within the pro-life community have stood against research on such cells as the processes involved in them require the destruction of embryos.
Critics also not that embryonic stem cell research has yielded no cures to date despite the highly touted potential of embryonic stem cells to develop into any cell of the body.
Adult stem cells (taken from bone marrow and other tissue sources) and neonatal stem cells (from umbilical cord blood and the placenta), meanwhile, have been used in successfully treating over 100 diseases and have been hailed by some as having many superior qualities to embryonic stem cells.
According to a poll released last year by the polling company, inc., 69 percent of Americans say they support stem cell research but only 45 percent say they support both adult and embryonic stem cell research when asked more specifically.
Furthermore, only 17 percent of Americans say they are “very familiar” with stem cell research while 41 are either “a little bit familiar” or “not at all familiar.” Roughly 42 percent say they are “somewhat familiar.”