A reader posts some questions that I'll try to answer. (Thanks, Janet!)
The most important thing to remember is that the new iPS cells appear to be like embryonic stem cells, but they can be made without killing anyone and they can be made to match the patient.
"Does this new procedure use any cells from the unborn to induce pluripotency in the adult skin cell thus creating a stem cell?"
Both labs in the news actually showed their final process using adult cells that did not require the death of any human individual at any age.
However, one of the groups (Thomson’s, from Wisconsin) proved that the process is possible by using embryonic stem cells and fetal cells from abortions, while the other group (Yamanaka’s, from Japan) used mouse cells for the basic science before using adult skin cells.
"If it does, then it cannot be considered an ADULT stem cell. So, it seems there would need be a third category of stem cells.
"If it does not use cells from the unborn, then could the iPS be considered an ADULT stem cell? It would be simpler to explain. Or because it is not a stem cell to begin with but is induced to become an ADULT stem cell, do we still need a third category for stem cells.
"I think that if the cells that are reprogrammed came from tissues after birth, they are adult stem cells, and the research using them is "adult stem cell research." (or non-destructive stem cell research resulting in induced pluripotent stem cells.)"
It can get complicated, and you do have to read "the fine print" in the reports to figure out the source.
I've always thought of the two groups as divided into
1. Destructive Research - that depends on the intentional destruction of individual human beings at any age is unethical vs.
2. Non-destructive Research - ethical research methods that do not intentionially cause injury to human beings.
For simplicity, most people call the first "embryonic" and the others "adult."
For instance, umbilical and amniotic fluid cells are ethical, non-destructive stem cells that are technically "fetal stem cells."
1. "embryonic" means the cells came from embryos - in humans that's up to 8 weeks gestation.
2. Most of the "fetal cells" used in research come from harvesting the bodies of children who are aborted, between the age of 8 weeks and term. These are sold as tissue cultures by commercial labs. Some of the cultures have been cultivated for 20 or 30 years and the genes and growth habits have been studied and they can be counted on to do what they are supposed to do.
3. Sometimes the "fetal" tissues are harvested after a natural miscarriage. These are considered ethical. (I don't think there are any commercially available standard tissue cultures from miscarriages.)
"I realize this is very basic and elementary to the posts that you get from doctors and other scientists but I believe that we must have clear definitions BASED ACCORDING TO WHERE THE STEM CELLS COME FROM to educate the voter and to keep the issues clear so that legislation isn't passed to support this new procedure with wording that would allow funding to inadvertently go to human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning."
Usually name is based on where the cells came from, but if the cells acted like the very early embryo - if they were truly "totipotent" like the zygote which is able to make both the body and the placenta - then research on them would be unethical.
The problem with "therapeutic" cloning, for instance, is that it would create a new human embryo that is capable of self-directed, organized development.
Even if he or she will be killed or die naturally in a few days, it's not right to create human beings with the intention of destroying them or using them for the benefit of others and to their own harm.
"Irregardless of the media and the bloggers who support human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, most Americans do not believe in the Communist philosophy that the end justifies the means. No matter what our vocation or business, we draw the line when the means are immoral. We expect other Americans to do the same, including scientists and researchers. Destroying one human being to help another is clearly immoral and we should not have to fund it. We will vote accordingly."
I agree. We believe that "self-" should always be part of "sacrifice."