Monday, January 30, 2006

Regeneration Sans Stem Cells

Wired News reports on the possibility of regeneration without stem cells, using a process called dedifferentiation to make the adult cells time-warp back to a semi-stem-cell state, at least enough to regenerate!
"The dogma has always been that heart muscle cannot regenerate," Larsen said. "But it's possible in animals, and now we have drug candidates that may do the same thing in humans." He estimates human trials of the protein compounds will begin within the next few years.
That is HUGE news for medical advances as it allows all sorts of science-fiction ideas for advanced medical technology to become reality.

Elsewhere Wired also has one religious scientist's view on this new idea:
"I believe that dedifferentiation -- the direct conversion of a somatic cell into an embryonic stem cell -- is the holy grail for those seeking morally acceptable alternatives to the destructive embryo research now required to obtain (embryonic stem) cells," said Father Nicanor Austriaco, a molecular biologist and Catholic priest in Washington, D.C. "You would also be able to get immunocompatible (embryonic stem) cells from every patient by simply dedifferentiating his or her cells. This would be an amazing discovery."
It sort of takes the puff out of the push for more embryo research, which has some nasty moral complications involved. I imagine it also simplifies tissue rejection issues as you can use an adult's own cells to create the new tissue (would this lead to radioactive industries will start offering to store bits of workers' various organs in case of radiation overdose?).

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