Recent breakthroughs in stem cell research are helping to narrow the ethical divide surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. In a desperate attempt to avoid using embryonic stem cells, scientists are uncovering different methods of converting non-embryonic cells into stem cells. The first successful production of embryonic-like induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells was published in 2006 by Japanese stem cell research scientists who used a microscopic needle to directly inject the genes necessary to reprogram an adult somatic cell into an iPS cell. The now famous induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are interesting because of their ability to turn into almost any cell type in the body. Papers published recently, January 2014, by Nature introduced an idea developed by another Japanese team, including Obokata, in which certain stressors could be used to reproduce conditions similar to that which stem cells are produced naturally by the body. The team experimented with many different types of stress, narrowing the competition down to a few successful techniques. The most practical of these techniques being a low-pH acid-bath that made iPS cells that were even more pluripotent than those of the 2006 experiment. The new cells were also made faster and more efficiently. This new “acid bath” (low pH) method of applying stress in order to convert base cells into stem cells creates potentially viable induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, but other research shows that the method inhibits proliferation and differentiation; therefore impeding the adoption of the newly formed stem cells.
Embryonic stem cells are considered the gold standard of stem cells because ...
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...hese methods are even less expensive and expeditious than episomal reprogramming. However, some skepticism continues to exist in the scientific community regarding the fidelity, longevity, integration of foreign DNA and ease of replication. In this sure to be multi-billion dollar industry, the technical challenges will continue to be overshadowed by the political and ethical division over the use of embryonic stem cells. Forced reprogramming of cells with DNA to engineer a new breed of stem cells is as controversial and akin to taking two giant leaps forward in the evolution process. Paradoxically, we are faced to both evolve as a species in order to adapt to our own advancements, while at the same time attempting to save ourselves from various diseases including spinal cord injury, diabetes, heart disease, blood disorders, Parkinson’s and other such diseases.
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