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    Mice have for the first time been cured of a severe blood disorder through treatment with stem cells created from tissue taken from their own tails.

    The breakthrough demonstrates for the first time a way of treating severe diseases using stem cells created from a patient's own tissue, thus sidestepping the problem of rejection faced when blood or tissue is donated.

    Furthermore, by changing tail cells into stem cells, the researchers avoided the ethically controversial alternative of deriving them from embryos.


    Jaenisch and his colleagues first extracted skin cells from mice and infected them in the lab with a virus carrying genes that act like four natural gene "switches", known as transcription factors. These switches reprogrammed the skin cells so that they became induced pluripotent stem cells, a form of cell capable of maturing into any tissue in the body.

    Jaenisch and his colleagues then used a precise gene-editing technique called homologous recombination to replace the defective beta-globin gene with a correct version, restoring the mouse genes to normal, even though the mice still had unhealthy red blood cells.

    So, the team then used chemical signalling molecules to make the induced pluripotent stem cells mature into blood stem cells, before transplanting them back into the bone marrows of the animals.

    Here, the corrected cells multiplied, repopulating the blood system of each treated mouse with completely normal blood cells and curing the original disease. Also, because the cells came from the animals themselves, there was no need for them to receive immunosuppressive drugs to overcome rejection.

    Cancer risk

    Jaenisch says that the experiment shows in principle what could be achieved in humans, especially for blood disorders that result from a single, repairable gene mutation.

    "The only problem with human treatment is that we can't use viruses to ferry the reprogramming genes into cells," says Jaenisch. The viruses themselves could trigger cancer later in life, so Jaenisch's team and other labs are experimenting with other ways to import the genes, such as inside fatty molecules that can penetrate into cells.
    • CommentTimeDec 6th 2007
    I want to live forever....stem cells are the way to make that life possible and enjoyable. I'm going to side right now as pro stem-cell research. Especially if we can sidestep those ethical questions involving embryos.
  2.  (200.3)
    The people who think that stem cell research is some sort of affront against nature should be forced to care for people with conditions that stem cells could help.

    Wiping other people's arses for a while should bring some pragmatism into their lives.

    (I'm loving what is happening with stem cells - looks like they are winning the 'race' with nanotechnology for healthcare applications. Actually, *any* advance in the medical sciences makes me happy - like pKone I'd quite like to live forever).
    • CommentAuthorAlexa_D
    • CommentTimeDec 6th 2007
    I've read too many Kurt Vonnegut short stories to want to live forever. I am glad that they found a way to make stem cells without using fetuses-- now the neo-cons can't justify denying funding to research.
    • CommentTimeDec 6th 2007 edited
    the iPS cells are very promising. it is particularly exciting now that they've been generated from adult human fibroblasts, which have clearly demonstrated the ability to differentiate in to different germ layer, and different tissues in vitro.

    i currently await the neocon wackjobs' invention of a new reason why we cannot use them. (i sometimes get the impression that they don't actually want illness cured.) i agree with Reynolds' assessment as well.
    • CommentTimeDec 6th 2007 edited
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007
    I don't know about living forever, but I'd just as soon not be diabetic, so yeah, go go stem cells.