A new study says that adult cells induced to become like embryonic stem cells ("induced pluripotent stem cells") are very nearly identical to the embryonic ones.

A study released Sunday shows embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells are almost identical.

Since human IPS cells were first produced from mouse cells in 2006 and from human cells in 2007, it has been thought they were equivalent to embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are derived from human embryos.

But new research, directed by Josh Coon, a UW-Madison associate professor of chemistry and biomolecular chemistry, shows the proteins in the two types of cells are almost identical.

Stem cells have the ability to develop into any of the different types of cells in the body. In many tissues they serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing to replenish other cells.

There is really no longer any ethical or scientific reason to use embryonic stem cells. But scientists will continue to try, and to justify it ethically. Some do this by, ironically, casting moral aspersions on those of us who bring up the ethics issue. Writing at the First Things blog, Wesley Smith responds to a faculty level scientist at UC Davis who got upset at one of Smith’s articles on the ethics issue. It is amazing how tone-deaf some of these fellows can be. One imagines that if, someday, we were able to extract perfect stem cells from pine needles, they’d still insist on using embryos.

    Filed under: Ethics & MoralityScienceStem Cells

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