>It turns out that it’s not just American Christian right-wingers who are grateful that there’s an alternative to embryonic stem cells from the destruction of human embryos.
Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka wins top German cancer prize
Heidelberg, Germany (dpa) – Shinya Yamanaka, the Japanese scientist who last week revealed a revolutionary new technique to manufacture stem cells, was chosen Monday as winner of a top German prize for cancer research.
He is to receive the annual 50,000 euro (74,000-dollar) Meyenburg Cancer Research Prize awarded at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.
The new technique, in which only four genes in ordinary skin cells need to be manipulated, has brought relief in Germany and the United States where there is ethical resistance to using stem cells from killed human embryos.
Yamanaka’s team’s research was published this month in the scientific journal Cell, along with related findings by allied US scientists in Wisconsin.
The award committee said the study of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells was a key step to new forms of cancer therapy, since cancer cells themselves probably formed the same way.
Explaining the process would suggest ways to prevent it and thus save people from cancer.
The prize was created by a rich German couple, Wilhelm and Maria Meyenburg, and has been awarded annually since 1981.
>Actually, there is no alternative for the use of embryonic stem cells. These new cells are not useful by themselves. They were created by inserting DNA sequences of 4 different genes. These genes get inserted at random points, increasing the risk for mutations. The breaktrhough is knowing which genes are the ones that make a somatic cell become pluripotent. However, for that to be useful, it is necessary to turn on the natural copies of those genes, not to insert new ones. In order to know how these genes are activated in nature more research is needed on actual human embryonic cells.
>The reprogrammed cells are useful for drug testing and for basic research into the genetic drives toward specialized cells and precursors, at least according to Daley, Thomson, Melton,etc.Future cells can be tested as embryonic and other pluripotent cells are now: in animal models and by their ability to form embryoid bodies, chimeras, and directed toward the specific cells derived. Remember the hype about the "first transplantable lung cells" from embryonic stem cells? That "breakthrough" used a similar technique – unlike the true first transplantable cells from non-destructive stem cell research.Researchers won't run out of the controls – the embryonic stem cells that are covered by Federal Funding. Some of these cells are frozen, awaiting future culture and division for future needs. Others are in tissue cultures, for production of future test material.
>Two points here seem significent. Firstly, the cells are not suitable for medical use, as the viral vector caused unpredictable genetic damage. Its a nice trick, but of limited practical use.The second, the one often overlooked, is that there were four key genes. Four genes which, used together, trigger the return to stem-cell state. How were these four genes identified? I cant understand the paper myself, but from what I gather they were identified during embryonic stem cell research. Someone noticed that these four genes of previously unknown purpose were active, thought they might be related to differentiation, and started poking around with viruses to figure out what they do. So even though the new technique doesn't require the use of embryonic stem cells, those embryonic cells were still vital in its invention.
>SR, that was the thinking behind allowing funding for a few cell lines that had been killed before the Federal funding was allowed. These were a way to find out what we needed to find out. (Thank goodness Bernard didn't do heart transplant research this way.)There hadn't been any Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research since the 1995 Dickey Amendment was added to the appropriations bill during Bill Clinton's administration.However, many of the big names in research predict that these cells will be useful for basic research. At the least, we'll have unlimited opportunities to research the changes that go on in the cell which allow reprogramming and unrestricted division. Finding keys to turning off the "stemness" of the cells will be invaluable for cancer researchers.Daley says these cells can be used as they are to "move the patient's disease into the lab." according to Rick Weiss of the New York Times.Then, Condic, Thomson and Daley – even Lanza – all seem to believe that the viruses won't be a problem within a year – probably for several reasons. We will learn to remove them or we will learn how to reprogram the cells without them.What those viruses actually do in the cell is to add genes, inducing the production of more copies of certain factors. Researchers need the factors and conditions that do this, more than we need extra copies of the genes themselves.Since these factors are present in some bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, the key seems to be to find the similarities between BM, cord blood, hES and the new reprogrammed cells.And the future is goal will be repair by stimulating the cells in the body.
>Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.