Stem Cell - Archive

May 2008: Stem Cell & Cloning Research

Scientists Turn Ethical iPSC "Embryonic-Like" Stem Cells Into Heart & Blood Cells

'Dolly the Sheep' Cloner Eyeing Joint Study with iPS Cell Inventor

World's First Cloned Dog Will Participate in First Breeding

NEW! Genetically Altered Embryo Points to Human Cloning Concerns

SCIENTISTS TURN ETHICAL iPSCs INTO HEART & BLOOD CELLS. Stem cell researchers continue to make progress with induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells, which are embryonic-like stem cells that don't require the destruction of human life to obtain.

After their discovery last year, pro-life groups hailed the cells as an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell research.

The UCLA researchers that have advanced the use of the iPS cells before were able progress further and grow functioning heart and blood cells.

They said the success is the first time iPS cells have been differentiated into the three types of cardiovascular cells needed to repair heart and blood vessels.

Dr. Robb MacLellan, the senior author of the study, published in the May 2008 edition of the medical journal Stem Cells, says the discovery could one day lead to clinical trials of new treatments for people who suffer heart attacks, have atherosclerosis or are in heart failure.

He also said the ethical cells don't present the same problems as the use of embryonic stem cells — that have issues with growing tumors and immune systems rejecting them.

“I believe iPS cells address many of the shortcomings of human embryonic stem cells and are the future of regenerative medicine,” he said.

“I’m hoping that these scientific findings are the first step towards one day developing new therapies that I can offer my patients. There are still many limitations with using iPS cells in clinical studies that we must overcome, but there are scientists in labs across the country working to address these issues right now," he explained.

Leading bioethicist Wesley Smith hailed the research results.

"IPSCs will apparently do everything scientists said they wanted from therapeutic cloning–and at far less expense, at no risk to women for their eggs, and without moral contentiousness," he said.

"Too bad California is still borrowing $300 million a year to pay for scientists' research on human cloning," he added.

MacLellan says iPS cells are believed to be very similar to embryonic stem cells but said further study needs to be done to confirm their differentiation potential. He said this new study is an important step in the confirmation process.

If they do, the time may come when a person could use their own skin cells to create individualized iPS cell lines to provide cells for cardiac repair and regeneration, MacLellan said.

That's important, given the problems associated with embryonic stem cells, he explained.

When embryonic stem cells are injected directly into the heart in animal models, they create tumors because the cells differentiate not only into cardiac cells but into other cells found in the human body as well. Likewise, using embryonic stem cells garnered from other sources than the patient could result in rejection of the injected cells.

Last June, UCLA stem cell researchers were among several scientific teams that were the first to reprogram mouse skin cells into iPS cells. [30 April/1May08, Ertelt, LifeNews.com, Los Angeles, CA]

'DOLLY THE SHEEP' CLONER EYEING JOINT STUDY WITH iPSC SCIENTIST. Edinburgh University Prof. Ian Wilmut would like to undertake joint research on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells with Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka, the inventor of the cells, Wilmut said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Tuesday.

"We're very interested in collaborating with him," Wilmut said of his team that created Dolly the sheep–the world's first cloned mammal–through somatic cell cloning. In an exclusive interview in Kobe, the British researcher also said he has begun studies with iPS cells.

In the afternoon, Wilmut attended a symposium in Tokyo with Yamanaka, where he said he was seriously considering bringing up the idea of jointly researching iPS cells with the Japanese researcher.

The British professor said he was very excited when he first heard Yamanaka speak about the successful development of iPS cells at an international conference in Toronto in June 2006. Wilmut praised Yamanaka's achievement, saying the finding was equivalent to the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.

"I certainly think Yamanaka will have the Nobel Prize," he said.

In connection with his research on iPS cells, Wilmut said it will be unnecessary in years to come to conduct studies to develop ES cells from cloned human embryos…  [Apr. 16, 2008, The Yomiuri Shimbun, KOBE, http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/science/20080416TDY02307.htm, Daily Uomiuri Online]

WORLD'S FIRST CLONED DOG PARTICIPATES IN FIRST BREEDING.  Next month, the world's first cloned dog will become the first cloned canine to breed.

Snuppy, the cloned Afghan hound created by some of the same researchers that participated in a controversy surrounding falsified embryonic stem cell research, will become a father. Seoul National University officials said on Friday that semen from Snuppy was used to artificially inseminate two female dogs of the same breed.

The researchers say ultrasounds show the unborn dogs are healthy and they are expected to be born in mid-May. Professor Lee Byung-Chun told the Korea Times, "The second generation of cloned animals used to be malformed but we have not found any abnormal aspects about the fetuses so far."

To create Snuppy, the SNU team killed a total of 1,095 reconstructed dog embryos and transferred them into 123 surrogates, yielding only Snuppy and another dog that died 22 days after birth.

Pro-life advocates say the destruction of hundreds of dog embryos points to the killing of human beings that would take place if scientists try to clone human beings.

[26Apr08. Seoul, South Korea, www.LifeNews.com]

 

 

GENETICALLY ALTERED HUMAN EMBRYO POINTS TOWARD HUMAN CLONING CONCERNS.  News about the first supposedly genetically altered human embryo is generating headlines from across the world. While the scientists involved in the project defend their work and deflect concerns, bioethicists say it presents a host of concerns about moving towards full-fledged human cloning.

Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, of the New York-based Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Me

dical Center, is the lead author behind a new paper about the work.

The paper outlines what is supposedly the first report of genetically modifying a human embryo. The paper was originally presented at a American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting last fall, but it only now getting public attention.

Rosenwaks' team inserted a marker gene into a days-old unborn child who had extra chromosomes, making it so the baby would not be able to be born. They hoped to be able to trace the marker gene in the stem cells obtained from the human embryo after the unique human being was killed.

However, Rosenwaks confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press that the embryo never developed further and no stem cells were collected.

Noted bioethics attorney and lecturer Wesley Smith responded to the news by saying media outlets hyped the news.

"In my view, this isn't quite as big a deal as reporters are making out," he says.

"First, the embryo was never viable in the first place because it was genetically defective. Nor was it created for the purpose of destroying it–which is the agenda of cloning research, the essential technology for learning how to genetically engineer the human race," he explained.

Smith said scientists have already genetically altered mammalian life, so the news that they have done the same thing in humans isn't a huge revelation.

"Don't get me wrong: I don't like it. I oppose treating human life, even if it is ultimately nonviable, as a mere instrumentality. But it doesn't really move the ball toward human genetic enhancement forward," he said.

To make progress in human cloning, Smith said scientists would have to follow the same process as used in animals, where hundreds of thousands of embryos have been killed to produce clones. And, in the case with Dolly, some of the "successful" clones had to be euthanasized because of problems.

Rosenwaks told AP that "None of us wants to make designer babies," but Smith says that doesn't alleviate the concern that researchers will proceed anyway.

"He should speak for himself. There are plenty of people biting at the bit to genetically engineer embryos, and a cadre of bioethicists and lawyers already laying down the intellectual foundation to create a constitutional right to do it," he said.

"If human cloning can ever be done reliably–a big if–an increasing number of advocates and media will urge the right to genetically engineer, first for health and later for enhancement, based on a supposed absolute right to procreate and to create the baby you want," he added.

"That is the trajectory they are on, and all you have to do is read the books and bioethics articles already in print to verify it," Smith concluded. [13May2008,  Ertelt, LifeNews.com, DC]