Friday, May 17, 2013

New Front In The Clone Wars

Oregon Health & Science University Biologist Masahito Tachibana and 22 of his colleagues made published an article in Cell on May 15, 2013, that may challenge and disrupt much of the ethical debate over embyronic stems cells.  As they note in their article, entitled "Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer,"
We demonstrate here for the first time the successful reprogramming of human somatic cells into ESCs [embryonic stem cells] following SCNT [somatic cell nuclear transfer].
In essence, Tachibana et al. successfully used cloning techniques to generate pluripotent (that is, capable of developing into many types of cell) ESCs from adult human fibroblasts (in this case, collagen-producing skin cells).  This method of reprogramming adult human cells into pluripotent ESCs may not only facilitate regrowth of damaged adult tissues, but even ease the cloning of human beings.

Human ESCs are sure to remain controversial, but this biological breakthrough may now cause a tectonic shift the ethical locus of that controversy.  The Clone Wars rage on.