Researchers in Wisconsin and Japan have turned ordinary human skin cells into what are effectively embryonic stem cells without using embryos or women's eggs -- the two hitherto essential ingredients that have embroiled the medically promising field in a long political and ethical debate.While this may well dramatically change the overall debate, those ideologically driven to support the destruction of human embryos to harvest their cells will not be persuaded. In another story you can hear ideology driving a proponent of embryonic stem cell legislation.
By activating a few dormant genes, the researchers were able to coax the cells back to a point in embryonic development before they had committed to becoming a particular type of tissue. The reprogrammed cells were able to grow into all the body's main tissue types, including muscle, gut, cartilage, neurons and heart cells.
The discovery provides a clear road map for creating genetically matched replacement cells that could be used to treat patients for a variety of diseases -- the personalized biological repair kits that are the ultimate goal of regenerative medicine.
"I don't think this changes the debate," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), a key participant in the House debate. "We still need to encourage all types of research, and we need to put ethical oversight in place."For those not ideologically driven I think it will change the debate.