Friday, 27 August 2010

Making Adult Stem Cells pluripotent

Recent advances in the field of induced pluripotent stem cells have got to the point where we can using various methods convert adult stem cells back to a state where they are pluripotent. I am not going to go into the details of these methods or much of the repercussions of this as these can be found much better at other sources - such as here and here and here.

Essentially I wanted to play devil's advocate here for a second with one thought that came to my mind. Now don't get me wrong I am all for stem cell research, and in fact I do not have an issue with the use of embryonic stem cells under reasonable conditions - especially in the case of those that are spare or to be wasted from IVF treatments.

The interesting thought I had in regards to this issue is, how do we know that these adult stem cells have been made to be pluripotent?

One way is to let the cells develop and multiply and see what happens. Although this is not exactly what is done in the study (actually the nucleus of the stem cells was put into a blastocyst) it is for all intents and purposes the same effect. Well... they develop in to an embryo of course.

Which brings us back to the beginning of that what we have done is use adult cells to create embryonic cells, which not only defeats the purpose of not using embryonic cells but is basically cloning.

Does this really solve the image problem that stem cells have?