Monday, August 14, 2006

So cures to every disease in the book aren't really just around the corner?

The New York Times has an article today on stem cell research and quotes a number of scientists regarding the problems they're having with embryonic stem cells.

Instead of curing diseases with embryonic stem cells, some researchers are focusing on trying to use embryonic stem cells to study how diseases begin. These studies would then supposedly lead to drugs which could help prevent the basic cause of some diseases.

Here's an interesting paragraph:
Many researchers have come to see the primary benefit of human embryonic stem cells as models for human disease. The idea is to take a cell from a patient, convert it to embryonic form, and then make the embryonic cell mature into the type that goes awry in the patient's disease, whether it be a dopamine-producing cell for Parkinson's disease or an insulin-making cell for diabetes.

Now is the author talking about human cloning for research or research similar to that of Kevin Eggan or Rudolph Janesich's research where they're working on being able to switch adult cells into embryonic stem cells?

What I find strange about this new goal for embryonic stem cells is how long will these cells have to live and mature until researchers can examine the basic cause of different diseases? Now I'm obviously not an experienced stem cell scientist and maybe I'm way off base here but it seems like it would take a long time for adult cells which are switched back into embryonic stem cells (or cells from cloned human embryos) to begin to show how diseases start, especially diseases which often begin later in life.

The article also contains the usual "would allow" and "restricted research" language regarding the limited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

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