Feb 09 2007

Major Adult Stem Cell Breakthroughs

Published by at 1:14 pm under All General Discussions,Stem Cell Debate

As the Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) continues to try and simply produce a contamination free set of cells that do more than cause cancers and other damaging growths, the Adult Stem Cell Research is making absolutely incredible advances. Our good friend The Anchoress not only pointed me to this news on amniotic stem cells that can be harvested at birth, but reminded me to do some quick checking on current events only to find a truly amazing breakthrough that really puts an end to the need for ESCR all together:

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists have found a set of “master switches” that keep adult blood-forming stem cells in their primitive state. Unlocking the switches’ code may one day enable scientists to grow new blood cells for transplant into patients with cancer and other bone marrow disorders.

The scientists located the control switches not at the gene level, but farther down the protein production line in more recently discovered forms of ribonucleic acid, or RNA. MicroRNA molecules, once thought to be cellular junk, are now known to switch off activity of the larger RNA strands which allow assembly of the proteins that let cells grow and function.

“Stem cells are poised to make proteins essential for maturing into blood cells, but microRNAs keep them locked in their place,” says cancer researcher Curt Civin, M.D., Ph.D., who led the study. The journal account will appear online the week of February 5 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Using microRNAs to stall an adult blood stem cell in its early stage could help us grow new ones in test tubes, and perhaps give us more insight into stem-cell maturation for other tissue types,” says Civin.-Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

What this means to us laymen is we now have the “on-off” switch that turns adult stem cells into some of their target cell types, in this case blood cells (or bone marrow cells). The use of adult stem cells is always preferred due to the genetic match with the patient. And finding this trigger outside the DNA (which is where I would have expected it to be, honestly) is a huge leap ahead. Now scientist will culture a vast number of tailored stem cells from the patient and know how to trigger them to make blood and marrow. It is probable this mechanism is valid for all stem cell control, so what will be left is to find the proper triggers for each cell type. Each target cell type, for example a neuron, is the product of different kinds and mixes of protein production. It would seem normal for each specific mix to have a combination of triggers that make the stem cell transform into the target type.

All speculation based on the apparent breakthrough. But reasonable speculation. And if true there will be no need for Embryo’s to die to give up there stem cells for adults who have their own. We just haven’t learned how to control them – yet. Which is the irony of all this. Once you learn how to trigger stem cells to form a specific target cell type, you don’t need Embryonic Stem Cells as the source. Research has already shown how adult skin cells can be ‘turned back’ into stem cells, providing doctors the raw materials needed to produce new cells. If we can take your skin cells (which renew) and turn them into your own pool of stem cells, and then control the process of transforming those stem cells into needed replacement cells with these triggers, it might be possible to grow a new kidney or liver from your skin. Imagine that.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Major Adult Stem Cell Breakthroughs”

  1. Mike M. says:

    Sounds good….but we want the process that turns FAT cells into replacement parts.

    It’s not a pot-belly, it’s a spare parts locker!

  2. Retired Spook says:

    I’d support tax dollars going to this kind of SCR. If this research continues on a successful course, it could just make the whole embryonic stem cell/adult stem cell argument moot. Then we’d find out conclusively what motivates the Left to support ESCR. (as if we didn’t already know.)