A lot of pressure has been put on the British public over the last few years to try to convince them of the scientific necessity of harvesting stem cells from human embryos. It’s been a kind of emotional blackmail: If you won’t support this kind of research and therapy then you are condemning millions of people who might have benefitted to unnecessary illness and suffering.
It’s good to hear that research into adult stem cells has been hugely successful. It shows that you can be scientific and ethical at the same time. That you can respect human life at its very earliest stages even as you are trying to help those who are suffering in its later stages.
This report came out recently from the BBC:
UK researchers are launching a study into the potential of using a person’s stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease. A Oxford University team will use adult stem cells, which have the ability to become any cell in the human body – to examine the neurological condition. Skin cells will be used to grow the brain neurons that die in Parkinson’s, a conference will hear. The research will not involve the destruction of human embryos.
Induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells were developed in 2007. At the time, scientists said it had the potential to offer many of the advantages of embryonic stem cells without any of the ethical downsides. Three years on, it seems to be living up to that claim.
The team at Oxford University is among the first in the world to use IPS to carry out a large scale clinical investigation of Parkinson’s, which is currently poorly understood.
Researchers will be taking skin cells from 1,000 patients with early stage Parkinson’s and turning them into nerve cells carrying the disease to learn more about the brain disorder, the UK National Stem Cell Network annual science meeting will hear. The technique is useful because it is difficult to obtain samples of diseased nerve tissue from patient biopsies. IPS enables the researchers to create limitless quantities of nerve cells to use in experiments and to test new drugs.