Thursday, July 23, 2009

Growing Mice

Some people don't believe anyone should do any medical research with embryonic stem cells, since those cells must be harvested from human embryos they believe would otherwise be productive (yet teensy-weensy) members of society. Fair enough. If by "fair enough" you mean "insane". But how about we cut out the middleman(bryo) and create stem cells from something else? Say, skin? Scientists have already been able to genetically reprogram human skin cells to become stem cells, but it's not clear whether those stem cells can be as versatile as the embryonic kind, which may be used to create any kind of cell in the body. But it appears Chinese scientists have proven that very thing by using stem cells created from mice skin cells to grow new mice in the lab. Controversy solved! But before you go clearing a spot on your desk for a homemade baby farm, you should know that several of the created mice were "born" with genetic abnormalities and didn't live long enough to produce. However, one of these studies created stable enough mice to produce three subsequent generations. So, it's a bit of a toss-up right now. But promising! More details here.