On Nov. 19, two teams of scientists declared their triumph that was a new method of harvesting stem-cells. Using skin.
All they had to do, the scientists said, was add four genes. The genes reprogrammed the chromosomes of the skin cells, making the cells into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body, be it heart, brain, blood or bone. Until now, the only way to get such human universal cells was to pluck them from a human embryo several days after fertilization, destroying the embryo in the process.
This should halt any further ethical discussion on whether stem cell research is right. Turns out that now it is, regardless.
The reprogrammed skin cells may yet prove to have subtle differences from embryonic stem cells that come directly from human embryos, and the new method includes potentially risky steps, like introducing a cancer gene. But stem cell researchers say they are confident that it will not take long to perfect the method and that today’s drawbacks will prove to be temporary.
Here's the rest of the story at the NY Times.
What does this mean for stem cell research? Was it all worth destroying those embryos for this result? What can this mean for humanity as we know it?