A team of scientists at Harvard has made a breakthrough in stem cell research. They report that they have been able to make stem cells-- the body's master cells-- from regular skin cells. Could this eventually end the debate over embryonic stem cells?
Scientists at Harvard may have a significant breakthrough... A way...to reduce the need to destroy human embryos for stem cell research...which has been a contentious medical and political issue dividing the country.
The process begins with embryonic stem cells. The researchers mix them with ordinary human skin cells in the lab. The result...a new hybrid cell...that acts like the embryonic cell. Essentially a reprogramed skin cell.
"If it truly is an embryonic stem cell then you get to the point where maybe it
can become any cell in the body." says Dr. Longaker a stem cell researcher.
Researchers believe those new and improved cells could replace defective ones or those that don't grow back in the heart, brain, or spinal cord and perhaps help treat crippling illnesses such as parkinson's, alzheimer's, or diabetes.
While critics applaud the harvard team for moving in the right direction they still want human embryos removed from the equation all together.
"Lets do the technology in a way that doesn't violate the value of life," says Carrie Gordon Earll a Right To Life activist.
The scientific debate will no doubt affect the political one. The senate has the divisive issue on it's agenda as soon as summer recess ends.
The house already passed a bill in may that would loosen the bush administration's restrictions on embryonic research.
Last month Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he'll break ranks, with the president, and support the bill.
The question is whether today's news from Harvard will derail the bill by giving conservatives an excuse not to vote for it.
"One side is going to say we don't have to do embryonic stem cell research others are going to say hooray for this breakthrough but we still have to pursue alternatives," says Arthur Caplan.
One thing is clear, Harvard's research is not a quick fix, it could take many years for even for stem cell research to prove it can live up to its promise.
Courtesy: NBC News