Science Archives

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Effectively Dead

It was supposed to be the Holy Grail of medicine. Human embryonic stem cells (hES) were going to save humanity. But when George W. Bush struck a compromise between wide-open research and a total ban, he was castigated by liberals who called him anti-science. Bush had concerns about the ethics of it all, but the Left wouldn’t hear of it.

However, since embryonic lines were restricted, some scientists pursued another area of research; adult stem cells. Adult cells were already curing diseases by themselves, but they couldn’t differentiate into as many cells as the embryonic type. This new research attempted to coax adult stem cells into their embryonic state. These were called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells).

It worked. And the ethical issue that George W. Bush brought up were no longer an issue. Ethics matter, Bush recognized it, and science (given a push to resolve it) came up with an alternative. Should science have ethical boundaries? That’s a perennial question, but Bush set this particular boundary, and he was right to do so.

And now?

Foes of human embryo research were called troglodytes and religious fundamentalists; they were frauds waging war on genuine science. Their scientific credentials were questioned. They were accused of being callous and indifferent to the suffering of patients with chronic illness.

And yet they were right. Not one person has been cured with embryonic stem cells. Not one.

The controversy ran out of steam almost immediately after Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka developed induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) in 2007, a feat for which he was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. His cells apparently have all the potential of embryonic cells without the ethical baggage. Leading scientists quietly stopped working with hES cells and moved to the new cells.

Nonetheless, some scientists still insisted that hES cells were the gold standard; destructive embryo research would always be essential for the advancement of science.

Now, in the concluding act of the stem cell wars, a paper in Nature Biotechnology has suggested that iPS cells and hES cells are functionally equivalent — effectively meaning that there is no need to destroy embryos either for research or for therapies. If it is true — and it needs to be confirmed by other researchers — it is the stem cell equivalent of receiving the surrender of the last Japanese soldier on some remote island in the Philippines. Whether or not the findings of Konrad Hochedlinger and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston are correct, the war is over.

Ethics in science still matters, or ought to. Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology.

    Widespread Adult Stem Cells

    Adult stem cells may be more plentiful than we thought.

    With the plethora of research and published studies on stem cells over the last decade, many would say that the definition of stem cells is well established and commonly agreed upon. However, a new review article appearing in the July 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal , suggests that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the nature, physiology and location of these cells. Specifically, the report suggests that embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the only source from which all three germ layers in the human body (nerves, liver or heart and blood vessels) can develop. The review article suggests that adult pluripotent stem cells are located throughout the body and are able to become every tissue, provided these cells receive the right instructions.

    No need for the ethical minefield that are embryonic stem cells.

      New Source of Stem Cells

      Your blood.

      Scientists at A*STAR’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) have developed a method to generate human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) from a single drop of finger-pricked blood ("Human Finger-Prick Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Facilitate the Development of Stem Cell Banking"). The method also enables donors to collect their own blood samples, which they can then send to a laboratory for further processing. The easy access to blood samples using the new technique could potentially boost the recruitment of greater numbers and diversities of donors, and could lead to the establishment of large-scale hiPSC banks.

      Imagine a stem-cell bank much like a blood bank. There is truly no need at all to destroy embryos for stem cells. Using blood and skin, the supply is endless.

        Behind the Curtain of Macro-Evolution

        Professor James M. Tour is a highly-credentialed chemist, and a Christian. Check this link for the list, and for his contention that there is no scientist alive today who understands macro-evolution. Tour, of course, comes at this from a chemical point of view, and has no idea how something like that can happen at the molecular level. He’s asked over and over for someone to explain it to him, but so far no takers.

        In an article about an insider’s view of the National Academy, he explains the situation behind the curtain.

        Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?”And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.

        I was once brought in by the Dean of the Department, many years ago, and he was a chemist. He was kind of concerned about some things. I said, “Let me ask you something. You’re a chemist. Do you understand this? How do you get DNA without a cell membrane? And how do you get a cell membrane without a DNA? And how does all this come together from this piece of jelly?” We have no idea, we have no idea. I said, “Isn’t it interesting that you, the Dean of science, and I, the chemistry professor, can talk about this quietly in your office, but we can’t go out there and talk about this?”

        If you understand evolution, I am fine with that. I’m not going to try to change you – not at all. In fact, I wish I had the understanding that you have.

        But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, “This enzyme does that.” You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me. Nobody has come forward.

        The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come! Now remember, because I’m just going to ask, when I stop understanding what you’re talking about, I will ask. So I sincerely want to know. I would like to believe it. But I just can’t.

        Now, I understand microevolution, I really do. We do this all the time in the lab. I understand this. But when you have speciation changes, when you have organs changing, when you have to have concerted lines of evolution, all happening in the same place and time – not just one line –concerted lines, all at the same place, all in the same environment … this is very hard to fathom.

        He does not claim the Intelligent Design label because:

        I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might. I am sympathetic to the arguments on the matter and I find some of them intriguing, but the scientific proof is not there, in my opinion.

        He is searching for the scientific proofs, but for macro-evolution, they just aren’t there, and no one in academia can provide them.

          Creation Debate: Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham

          Tickets sold out immediately for the Answers in Genesis Museum’s night of debate between Bill Nye "The Science Guy" and Ken Ham, proprietor of Answers in Genesis. The topic is “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?”

          Since tickets sold out so fast, the debate will be live-streamed on the Internet at . The debate will be on Tuesday, February 4th, at 7pm. Should be interesting.

            More Great Stem Cell News

            Back when Christopher Reeves was still alive and getting the word out on stem cell research, the big push was for embryonic stem cells to be used in that research. All those in-vitro fertilized eggs that didn’t get used were just waiting to be harvested and experimented on. There was just one thing. Pro-lifers, like me, considered them human embryos, simply an earlier form of a regular human life, and therefore considered destroying them for experimentation it on par with abortion, with the added baggage that we’d be, well, experimenting on them. Adult stem cells, even back then, had been proving their worth in many, many situations, didn’t have a tendency to become cancerous when used, and if properly fed and cared for, would never be anything other than adult stem cells. That is, they would never become a human being. The ethical baggage simply wasn’t there, especially for those who thought science ought to be, indeed, ethical.

            When President George W. Bush decided to limit the number of existing embryonic stem cell lines that could be used to experimentation, he did two things. First, he put a stake in the ground of scientific ethics; this far and no farther. Second, he lit a fire under the line of research that was trying to find a way to make adult stem cells, which cannot differentiate themselves in quite as many other kinds of cells as embryonic, just as flexible and changeable as their embryonic counterparts.

            Research has been advancing quickly, and results have been getting better and better, until last month, this bit of good news came out.

            Researchers have for the first time converted cultured skin cells into stem cells with near-perfect efficiency.

            By removing a single protein, called Mbd3, a team at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, was able to increase the conversion rate to almost 100% — ten times that normally achieved. The discovery could clear the way for scientists to produce large volumes of stem cells on demand, hastening the development of new treatments.

            Almost 100%. From skin cells. Had we taken the easy way out, and not the harder, ethical one, A) the Left would not have branded the Right as “anti-science” over this. (Well, at least, not as much as they normally would.) And B) this research would not have continued at such a pace, allowing us now to produce stem cells at a rate we probably could not have done before.

            Anti-science, indeed. More like pro-ethical-science, especially when you can have your ethics, and stem cells, too.

              Stem Cells From Skin

              (This is one of the segments of the most recent episode of my podcast, "Consider This!")

              On May 16th, Oregon Health and Science University scientists explained how they had managed to take skin cells, and inject them into a human egg that had its genetic material stripped out. Sounds something like cloning, but the researchers say that the procedure wouldn’t likely be able to make a clone. Still, the stem cells created are pretty much embryonic stem cells, and the organs that would be produced from them would not be rejected by the body from which the skin cells came.

              It was George W. Bush who had enough faith that science would find an alternative, and thus who decided to curtail the destruction of embryos as a compromise to banning embryonic stem cell research altogether. You have to wonder, too, if this sort of research into finding alternatives wouldn’t have been nearly as urgently pushed if the floodgates had been opened on the supply of frozen embryos back then.

              This proves 2 things. One, that George W. Bush was most definitely not anti-science. In fact, he believed scientists could research their way out of an ethical dilemma, while those who push for using existing frozen embryos, then and now, are putting expediency over ethics. And two, that market forces work, even in the scientific community.

                Embryonic Stem Cells From Skin

                The latest breakthrough in stem cell research turns skin cells into stem cells just as useful as embryonic stem cells, without the ethical issues. Adult stem cells and induced stem cells, while still able to become many other types of cells, still had some limitations. Researchers are saying, however, that stem cells using this new method, are just like embryonic.

                We are getting to the point that using actual embryos is going to be completely unnecessary. It’ll be almost medieval to suggest using them, when skin (which is the largest organ in your body; did you know that?) are able to produce what’s required. I wonder how much the advance of methods to create embryonic-like stem cells was pushed forward by George W. Bush’s restriction of embryonic stem cell lines that could be used. Bush, then, was not anti-science, but pro-ethical-science.

                US researchers have reported a breakthrough in stem cell research, describing how they have turned human skin cells into embryonic stem cells for the first time.

                The method described Wednesday by Oregon Health and Science University scientists in the journal Cell, would not likely be able to create human clones, said Shoukhrat Mitalipov, senior scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

                But it is an important step in research because it does not require the use of embryos in creating the type of stem cell capable of transforming into any other type of cell in the body.

                The technique involves transplanting an individual’s DNA into an egg cell that has been stripped of genetic material, a variation of a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

                "A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells," said Mitalipov.

                  The Science is … Settled?

                  If it is, it may not be in the way  you’ve been told.

                  Don’t look now, but maybe a scientific consensus exists concerning global warming after all. Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. By contrast, a strong majority of the 1,077 respondents believe that nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or that future global warming will not be a very serious problem.

                  Is this some sort of sea change? Again, not necessarily.

                  Another interesting aspect of this new survey is that it reports on the beliefs of scientists themselves rather than bureaucrats who often publish alarmist statements without polling their member scientists. We now have meteorologists, geoscientists and engineers all reporting that they are skeptics of an asserted global warming crisis, yet the bureaucrats of these organizations frequently suck up to the media and suck up to government grant providers by trying to tell us the opposite of what their scientist members actually believe.

                  An inconvenient truth, to be sure.

                    Friday Link Wrap-up

                    No, the Bush tax cuts didn’t cause the recession. Yes, Obama’s "recovery" has been the worst in history. These and other economic realities can be summed up in this graph. (Click for a larger version.)


                    A sex scandal involving adults and children under their charge. No, not the Catholic church of the 60s; the public schools of today.

                    While he did get the number wrong, Romney was right in that those who pay the least in income taxes are the least likely to vote for him.

                    The number of scientific papers that had to be retracted last year was a 10x increase over the rate during the previous decade. And a study of those retractions finds that 3/4ths of those retractions were due to misconduct rather than honest mistakes.

                    Good news in the stem cell debate. "Two stem-cell researchers have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in cellular reprogramming, a technique that unleashed a wave of advances in biology, from cloning to the possible treatment of diseases using a patient’s own cells." That is, there is less of a reason to use embryonic stem cells, when adult ones will do just as well.

                    Hedging their bets? "A survey by the Pew Research Center discovered that 2.4 percent of Americans say they are atheists and 3.3 percent say they are agnostic. Among the atheists and agnostics, however, 6 percent said they pray daily."

                    Need more money for your school district, by proving how many students attend? Make them wear microchips. Privacy takes a back seat to cash.

                    And finally, some apt scripture for the VP debate last night. (Click for a larger version.)

                       Page 1 of 9  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »