On the day before the House passed
the stem-cell funding bill (S. 5 passed in the Senate
on April 11), which Pres. Bush has promised to veto
, there was interesting, potentially revolutionary (but potentially not) news on the stem-cell science front: Skin cells from mice have been reprogrammed to act as stem cells. If that carries over to humans and the results are consistently reproducible, we're looking at a way to avoid using embryonic stem cells, thus mooting the pro-life objection against destroying an embryo (even one you created as a clone of yourself) to obtain a fresh supply of stem cells. Here are some links and summaries from AHLA:
- NBC Nightly News (6/6, lead story, 3:05, Williams) led its broadcast with "an amazing piece of science" having to do "with medicine," as well as "with a hugely divisive political issue, embryonic stem cells and their potential to cure the sick and disabled." NBC (Bazell) added, "This is indeed an astounding and elegant piece of scientific research. It's not going to end the debate about embryonic stem cells, but it could be a big step in that direction."
- The CBS Evening News (6/6, story 3, :30, Couric) noted that "researchers say they have found a way to make stem cells out of ordinary skin cells in mice. If the technique works in humans, scientists might using human embryos. Experts believe stem cells could be used to treat diseases ranging from diabetes to Parkinsons."
- The Chicago Tribune (6/6, Kaplan) reports, "If the discovery applies to human cells -- and researchers are optimistic that it will -- it would offer a straightforward method for creating a limitless supply of cell lines tailor-made for patients without any ethical strings attached. ... 'This is truly the Holy Grail -- to be able to take a few cells from a patient, say a cheek swab or some skin cells, and turn them into stem cells in the laboratory,' said Dr. Robert Lanza, an embryonic stem-cell researcher and head of scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology Inc. in Worcester, Mass., who was not involved in the research. 'It would be like turning lead into gold.'"
- In a front-page article, USA Today (6/7, 1A, Vergano) says that "the findings, by three teams publishing in the journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell, mean the reprogrammed cells may offer a non-controversial way...to make rejection-free tissues for transplant patients. But research still hasn't shown that the same cells will work in humans too, the study's authors say."
- The Wall Street Journal (6/7, Naik) runs a similar report under the headline "Stem-Cell Breakthrough May Ease Ethical Debate." On its front page, the New York Times (6/7, A1, Wade), meanwhile, says that "the technique seems likely to be welcomed by many who have opposed human embryonic stem cell research. It 'raises no serious moral problem, because it creates embryoniclike stem cells without creating, harming or destroying human lives at any stage,' said Richard Doerflinger, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' spokesman on stem-cell issues."
- The Christian Science Monitor (6/6, Spotts) adds, "many researchers say that progress in the U.S. has been hampered by limits...Bush imposed on federally funded human embryonic stem-cell research nearly six years ago." But "the limits also have prompted some labs to hunt for alternate ways to derive cells."
- In a front-page article, the Washington Post (6/7, A1, Weiss) reports, "Acutely aware that their new work could undermine that key political goal, the scientists cautioned that their success with mouse cells does not guarantee quick success with human cells." They "called for Congress to pass the bill, which would give federally funded researchers access to embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics. 'A human is not a mouse, so a lot more work has to be done,' said Marius Wernig, who led one team with Rudolf Jaenisch of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass."
- Along those lines, the New York Times (6/7, A32, Pollack) runs another story titled: "A Long, Uncertain Path For New Cell Technique."