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[IPu] Re: STEM CELL RESEARCH
The following article was submitted to the main email @ redacted list.
From: "jhughey" <email @ redacted>
To: <email @ redacted>
Sent: Wednesday, March 13, 2002 9:49 PM
Subject: [IP] Stem cell research doubts
Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 22:06 GMT
Stem cell research doubts
The potential of stem cell therapy is hotly debated The use of adult stem
cells to develop new transplant therapies might be seriously flawed, a
group of scientists said on Wednesday.
The UK and US researchers claimed to have found abnormalities in the way
the cells behaved when studied closely in the lab.
The scientists from Edinburgh and Gainesville said it was essential that
work continued on embryonic sources of the special cells to see if they
had better potential.
The medical world is hopeful that stem cells, the master cells in the body
that can develop into other cell types, could form the basis of novel
treatments for degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's and heart
But the field is a controversial one because some scientists believe the
best source of the cells will come from embryos that have been
cloned from patients' own tissues.
Recent studies have shown that adult stem cells from one tissue such as
blood, can give rise to other cell types, such as nerve and muscle.
The adult cells are thought to revert to a state similar to that of
embryonic stem cells, which are even less specialised, before becoming the
new cell types.
Scientists at Edinburgh University took adult stem cells from mouse brains
and marked them with a fluorescent tag. The researchers then mixed them with
embryonic stem cells in a petri dish.
And on first examination, it appeared that the adult brain cells had indeed
reverted to the less specialized state of the cells placed alongside them.
However, on closer examination, the new cells proliferating in the petri
dish contained the florescent marker from the brain cells and the DNA from
the embryonic stem cells.
In other words, the adult cells had simply fused with the embryonic ones -
the new cells had twice the number of chromosomes ("packets" of genetic
If used in humans, these hybrid cells could have unknown effects on the
Similar results were seen by scientists at the University of Florida in
No restrictions on stem cell work
Professor Austin Smith, who was behind the British work, said if the study
results were confirmed then it would put a big question mark against the
use of adult stem cells.
If nothing else, our study indicates that calls for a halt to embryonic stem
cell research are not scientifically justified and confirms the
far-sightedness of the UK legislature in approving embryonic stem cell
derivation and research."
Stem cells have the potential to grow into nearly all the different kinds
of tissue in the body, including nerves, bone, skin, muscle and organs.
Allied with cloning technology, they could prove revolutionary in organ
regeneration - organ transplants can fail because the body's immune system
rejects the new "foreign" tissue.
Using stem cells taken from a patient's embryo clone to create replacement
cells could completely bypass the problem of tissue rejection.
But Professor Nick Wright, from Cancer Research UK, said that nothing shown
in this research cast doubt in his mind on the results of adult stem cell
research in animals.
"These are extremely preliminary results and are not applicable to adult
stem cells," he told BBC News Online.
Professor Wright himself published research showing how damaged livers can
be repaired using adult stem cells taken from bone marrow.
He said this new research had only been carried out in the test tube and
not in living animals and so could only be applied to this one particular
He added that polypliody - having more than one set of chromosomes in a
cell - occurred naturally in the liver anyway.
The Edinburgh/Gainesville work is published in the journal Nature.
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