Beyond the celebration of the 40-year-old lunar landing, the big science news this week came Thursday from a group of Chinese researchers who figured out how to grow healthy mice from mouse stem cells.
The breakthrough is a huge step for research into induced pluripotent, or iPS, stem cells, which is taking adult stem cells and converting them into embryonic stem cells. But the Chinese discovery is causing some to worry that we’re a lot closer to human cloning than we should be.
This story in Friday’s Los Angeles Times frames the debate well.
“We are fast forwarding to the era of designer babies,” said Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology Inc. in Worcester, Mass., who was not involved in the studies. “We have gone from science fiction to reality.”
San Diego-based researchers have been leaders in stem cell research since the early days, and have been at the forefront of iPS research. In June, researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies announced that they had successfully turned a human hair follicle back into a stem cell.
Here’s a snippet from our in-depth story on the issue last year:
The technique using adult skin stem cells has been hailed by scientists worldwide for advancing the science while avoiding the major ethical controversy and quieting the most vocal opponents of embryonic stem cell research. In San Diego, researchers are increasingly developing alternatives to natural embryonic stem cells, such as using stem cells derived from unfertilized human egg cells. Other researchers are avoiding the controversy all together and harvesting adult stem cells found in fatty tissue to reconstruct body parts.