Ian Wilmut says that if he had “to bet money,” he’d bet on reprogramming adult – the patient’s own stem cells.
Joining the cloning experts in the race are scientists who are looking for new ways to “reprogram” DNA, or make it young again without fusing it into an egg. They think it may be possible, for example, to bathe adult cells in the right chemicals and produce stem cells.
“In my view, it is difficult to predict which will come first but I think we need to try both,” Wilmut said Tuesday. “If I had to bet money, I would probably bet on reprogramming” rather than cloning.
The science of reprogramming, he said, is moving quickly, and scientists working in the field don’t have to deal with the myriad obstacles facing cloning.
The statement was made in Connecticut, at “StemCONN 07,” an appropriate name that has more to do with the unethical cloning and destruction of human embryos than with the name of the State hosting the conference. Press releases, so far, attempt to focus on therapies from embryonic stem cell research – which, of course, can only benefit patients if their own cloned twin is used and destroyed in the process.
In another article in the Harford, Connecticut Courant, cloning is described as a goal, evidently, in spite of it’s futility:
Wilmut and other scientists want to obtain personalized embryonic cells by fusing DNA from, say, a skin cell into an egg with its own nucleus removed. The resulting cells could be used to study a host of difficult-to-research diseases and in theory could be used to repair damaged tissue in many ailments.
However, a third article on the convention points out that
Researchers who received Connecticut’s first batch of stem cell grants were among the scientists who presented their work at StemConn07.
Some of that work involves reprogramming the DNA of adult cells to produce embryonic stem cells tailored to a particular organism. This would have potentially huge implications for using a patient’s own cells to repair damaged tissue without fear of rejection.
Success would quiet ethical objections to research that creates and/or destroys human embryos. Questions surrounding these techniques have resulted in a freeze on federal funding for work on stem cells created after Aug. 9, 2001.
Well, if tax money is to be used on stem cell research, they’re betting a limited supply of funds in the hope of achieving cures and treatments for Texans. I agree with Dr. Wilmut in this case – the best bet is not cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). It’s research into non-embryonic stem cells, in order to reprogram them to make the cells each of us might need, when and where we need them.
The Courant reporter doesn’t quite “get it,” though. He seems to believe that the goal of “reprogramming” is to use “generic embryonic stem cells” to produce the necessary cells. The research that has been published so far indicates that the most significant factor in regeneration of stem cells from more differentiated or specialized cells is the “factors,” environmental cues and conditions that stimulate and recruit the patient’s own latent or limited stem cells.