Dr Peter Saunders quotes here from a New Scientist article - the whole article is here - about the ethical use of stem cells - that is, use that doesn't require killing anybody, born or unborn.
DID you know that you have accessible stem cells up your nose? Or that human fetuses shed stem cells into the fluid around them? Both of these seemingly random facts could spawn novel, personalised stem-cell treatments that, if not simple per se, are simpler than what has gone before.
What marks these treatments out is that they are eminently practical and ethically unquestionable. This is in stark contrast to much previous work, which has focused on human embryonic stem cells, or hESCs.
From the outset, the use of hESCs has been fraught with controversy. Only last week, after years of trying, and the notorious fraud involving Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang, hESCs were finally created through a variant of the cloning technique that gave us Dolly the sheep. This fused skin and egg cells, leaving the nucleus of the latter intact. Unfortunately, human eggs are still required, embryos still perish in the process and in this case the embryos and resulting hESCs had three sets of chromosomes instead of two, ruling out medical uses.
A promising alternative to hESCs emerged in 2006 when researchers produced so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from ordinary tissue such as skin. But to convert adult cells into embryonic-like cells means genetic reprogramming, for example with a virus, and the reprogrammed cells do not yet match embryonic stem cells.
Now there are different avenues of research that are simpler in many ways. In ‘Diabetic rats cured with their own stem cells’, we report how researchers cured diabetic rats by turning brain stem cells extracted through the nose into insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. They did this without any genetic trickery.
And in ‘Baby repair kit found inside the womb’, we report how congenital defects such as holes in the diaphragm could be patched up using a baby's own stem cells extracted from the surrounding amniotic fluid.
What's worrying is that he concludes by saying 'You won't read about this in any British newspaper'. Can any of you prove him wrong?