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Nullo's avatar

So! Mature cells may be reprogrammed into stem cells. Does this put the stem cell controversy to rest?

Asked by Nullo (21826 points ) October 10th, 2012

The Nobel Prize for Physiology goes to two researchers who discovered a way to convert regular cells into stem cells, and from stem cells into other cell types.

As you may know, stem cell research has its share of controversy, centered around the human embryos from which the stem cells are harvested. This development apparently dispenses with needing the embryo.

Do you suppose that this practice will become widespread? Do you foresee an end to hostilities on this matter?

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26 Answers

woodcutter's avatar

It will still be political due to different facilities scrapping over the same funding?

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know enough about the science, hopefully some of our scientists will chime in. I do think if it is truly equal the controversy will go away, unless maybe this process is much more expensive. Mature cells are much easier to come by than embryonic cells. I have my doubts it really is equal, but I think it is fantastic if it is.

Sunny2's avatar

Except for those who believe who think it isn’t right to tamper with God’s grand plan.

LostInParadise's avatar

The discovery was made a while ago, so I guess it is a matter of effective and efficient use of it. It would be nice to see the stem cell controversy go away.

As a side note, plant cells, regularly go back and forth between stem cells (called meristem cells in plants) and other cells. It is why you can get roots coming out of a plant cutting.

LuckyGuy's avatar

It is one extra step in the chain. A remarkable step but still another chance for error.
If I was a paraplegic, selfishly I would want the youngest, and fittest cells going into my spinal cord.
Years from now we will look back at these times and consider them the dark ages. Our great grandchildren will hear about radical -ectomy surgery and its aftereffects like we look at Civil War amputations.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Absolutely. The entire argument was about the sanctity of life/ embryonic stem cells.

woodcutter's avatar

If not for the embryonic stem cell research I don’t think this newer research would have come about ever, so, even if we can achieve the same results, the embryonic studies will have had their significant place in history.

jerv's avatar

I am with @woodcutter on this; if we hadn’t started with embryonic cells, we never could have gone beyond that and made embryonic cells unnecessary. Sadly, many who oppose stem cell research oppose science; the Earth is 6000 years old, the Sun revolves around it….

wundayatta's avatar

Oh goodness no! It only makes it worse. Now every cell in the body is a potential embryo. Catholics will have to love every cell. When you spank someone, you will be murdering millions of potential human beings. We’ll have to outlaw all forms of violence, won’t we? Since they are all instances of mass murder.

Not that the Catholic position on this ever made any sense, but now it’s simply absurd.

Nullo's avatar

@wundayatta AFAIK nobody believes that stem cells are embryos. The issue is that stem cells are taken from aborted embryos.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Nullo Exactly. Many scientists always said there were alternatives to using aborted embryo’s, and Right To Life and Catholics were concerned about a future in which people paid for those. It was a valid concern at the time.

BhacSsylan's avatar

No, this will not. As has been explained by others and I have myself mentioned elsewhere, this is a great step, but does not ‘end’ anything. They are another tool. A really great tool, and the work these two have done is amazing and they totally deserved this Nobel. But to say that this discovery (which, as has been mentioned, was around for some time) is an end to embryonic stem cell work is to grossly misunderstand it.

And as @woodcutter mentioned, we needed embryonic stem cell research to get where we are now with this. In spite of the various attempts to stop it.

wundayatta's avatar

Presumably, eventually we’ll be able to make embryos out of material from step cells. We’ll be able to take any two people and construct the genetic material necessary to create new life from those two people. We could potentially make thousands of embryos from anyone we want. We could take genetic material from a couch and make a baby out of it. Do all those embryos then have a right to life?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@wundayatta In my opinion, yes. Want some soylent green too? lol

wonderingwhy's avatar

No, they both have their place and need continued research to better understand their mechanisms, benefits, drawbacks, and applications. Human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) research should, at least, not face the funding problems human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research suffers from. This might also make the ethical hESC issues more of a back burner problem and might improve funding for it as well. At this point hiPSC research should in no way be considered a replacement for hESCs it’s much too early for that and for now is just another track of experimentation and study to reach many of the same goals. However further research into both hiPSCs and hESCs will hopefully find improved ways apply the knowledge and overcome their inherent problems, particularly tumorigenesis, sooner rather than later.

LostInParadise's avatar

It does raise interesting possibilities. Suppose someone does genetic engineering on the DNA in an isolated skin cell. Nobody is going to raise objections. It is just an isolated skin cell. What happens though when the isolated skin cell is turned into a mutant embryo?

JLeslie's avatar

The whole argument is not only about using embryonic cells, there is still the ethical argument about screwing around with life in general. Genetic engineering, stem cell research, there are still some arguments to be had. But, it seems most Evangelical Christians only concern themselves on this topic with supposed “aborted fetuses” which is not what embryonic stem cells are taken from. The Catholic church seems to have a larger view, although I don’t know where they stand on using mature cells. But, for instance the Catholic church is not ok with using IVF to make a baby, but most other Christians are. It’s my impression the Catholic church, meaning the people high up who decide these things, know more about the science that the average pastor in a church on a corner. But, I could be wrong, it is just my impression. But, the Evangelical Christians are the loudest voices in these political fights generally, not the Catholics, although certainly the Catholics do some of it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

If they can give me wings I’m in, think of all the fossil fuels we wouldn’t have to use! :)

Patton's avatar

We’ve known about this for at least a couple of years now and the issue hasn’t gone away yet, so no. Also, adult stem cells don’t work for everything and aren’t as effective as embryonic stem cells. So the people who want to pretend that an embryo destined for the garbage can is somehow a sacrosanct object will have to come up with some other way of dodging the issue of why they think a loving God wouldn’t want us to cure disease using resources that already exist and will otherwise be completely wasted.

JLeslie's avatar

A while back I asked a stem cell question. Fireintheprairy wrote this:

It is 100% possible to get pleuripotent cells from adult cells. These are the induced pluripotent stem cells I mentioned above. Here is an article talking about some guys who cured mice of sickle cell anemia using this technique. The technology is new. There are a few kinks that have to be worked out before it can be applied to humans (they talk about this in the article) and embryonic cells are still the only proven method in other areas of stem cell research, but it’s clearly coming along. Most of the pro-stem cell research arguments you’ll hear don’t take this new technology into account at all, even though many of these people are scientists who certainly know that it exists. The reason? Their research will be faster and cheaper if they use embryonic sources of stem cells. Scientists do not want to miss out on making discoveries because they’re using the slow or expensive method.

I don’t know if the science has actually moved along more. And, he did reference the cost and the speed of the research if embryonic stem cells are used.

Kayak8's avatar

@nullo Stem cells are not only taken from aborted embryos, they are taken from embryos that have not been placed in a uterus, but have the potential to grow from being a multicellular diploid eukaryote to a fetus IF placed in a uterus. In other words, they are fertilized eggs—they still have to be in a uterus for about 8 weeks to be considered a fetus. Because various stripes of religious persons have decided for themselves (and for others it seems) that the promise of a fertilized egg gives it enough “humanness” for their purposes, that they shouldn’t be used for any purpose BUT being given a chance to find a willing uterus and grow to their full human potential. Use of these embryos for stem cell research involves their destruction and that is the other objection (besides the objection to abortion in general). This briefly touches on the ethics that are troubling to some.

@JLeslie As for the higher ups in the Catholic Church being sharper than the pastor in the corner church, remember that these are the same people that brought you the flat earth and are now complaining that if Italians don’t pay their church tax, they can’t get the sacraments (weddings, funerals, communion, etc.). The Catholic Church higher ups also hold with the “infallibility of the Church” and the infallibility of the Pope including such decrees as (in 1239) the order to seize and examine Jewish writings (including the Talmud) which were suspected of blaspheming the Church. In 1966 they gave us condemnation of birth control and perpetuate assorted rules about sex.

JLeslie's avatar

@Kayak8 I know. But, the Catholic church also consults with scientists and medical doctors and is willing to accept evolution. Catholics do not reject science and the scientific method in modern day as a whole. IVF means creating embryos in science labs, very high stats the embryos will not sirvove to a live birth. Some might be kept frozen or discarded. I don’t see how people who are against abortion can be logically OK with IVF, but many many Evangelical Christians are. I have to assume they don’t understand the process. Catholics do need science to fit into their beliefs, so birth control continues to be tricky for instance. Plus, births mean more Catholics, so there are many reasons to want to populate.

livelaughlove21's avatar

I hope so. I also hope that these stem cells are just as useful as the embryonic type.

I really had no opinion on the stem cell controversy until my 23-year-old husband was diagnosed with a degenerative retinal disorder that may make him blind one day. Stem cell research is really the only hope of a cure. After doing my own research, I fully support it.

woodcutter's avatar

Even if this practice is abandoned because an alternative method is proven to produce like results, the conservative spin machine will continue to get mileage out of it by using the voting records of future opponents against them if they have to. That comes with the territory but it will be a handy weapon to have that is ready to go..

Pandora's avatar

You are always going to have people who are going to protest anything they deem unnatural. However, I guess it will put embryo research to rest. I don’t think it was only religious groups that argued it was wrong to use embryos. You are going to have people who are going to argue that if we keep messing with prolonging life, that we are going to overpopulate the world, or that the only people who will benefit from it will be the rich.
It will just be a different protest, but the protests will continue.

psyonicpanda's avatar

Wow! I love the stem cell argument it always goes two in two directions and in the end its a debate about God(s) and Science. I think the philosophy and possible application of stemcells far out weighs the aspect of makeing somebodys big voice in the sky angry. Stem cells all the way.

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