Posted by: fireweaver | August 14, 2006

world shift

let me preface this whole thing with the disclaimer: it is not yet time to get giddy about this. preliminary findings. unproven beyond concept. could be like the bozo in korea that faked his whole lab’s worth of work & the cloned dog and all.

that being said, holy crap: induced pluipotent stem cells.

dogma has a lot to do with how we percieve the world. on the surface, that’s a “duh” sort of statement, but really, think about how what you *know* to be true impacts how you imagine what’s possible beyond it (“there is no spoon” and all). we’ve *known* that adult cells hit this point of no return beyond which they can only be one fixed cell type for a while now. that’s the problem that spawned the whole conservative vs liberal stem cell debate: stem cells could only be harvested from embryos whose cells hadn’t yet hit that point of no return.

for my non-science peeps, the allure of stem cells is just magical. young, new cells that can develop into whatever is needed. heart attack or liver cirrhosis? just inject some SCs into the damaged area, and watch them grow into new healthy functioning tissue. genetic disease (like that warning on soda cans to phenylketonurics about the chemicals they can’t process in the soda)? insert the correct gene into some SCs and let them seed out into all the organs, producing the correct gene products, fixing all the problems. we can list examples for days, but basically, for truckloads of diseases that otherwise have nothing to do with each other, stem cells offer a way to cure that condition, if only we can figure out how to get it all to work.

the next hurdle to using SCs as a treatment would be the fact that if they aren’t yours, they’re foreign, and therefore can get rejected like in an organ transplant. science has been flirting for quite some time with the few sources of SCs in the adult body (like in bone marrow) that can be harvested & replaced back into the same person, but these “adult” stem cells just don’t have anywhere near the same potential to develop into *anything* that the embryonic ones do. that’s what makes this article so exciting: both the possibility of truly pluripotent SCs from adult tissues AND a way to culture SCs from an individual patient, rather than rely on the few existing (contaminated) SC lines that are out there. that’s just f’ing cool.


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