An Australian stem cell researcher has told a government inquiry into therapeutic cloning that his field has advanced so much in the past three years that adult stem cells are now “serious alternatives” to embryonic stem cells for cell transplantation, for research into diseases and for drug discovery. “The ethical issues raised by the embryonic stem cell debate should be informed by knowledge of alternative technologies,” says Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, of Griffith University.
In a written submission to a committee studying whether or not Australian legislation should be amended to allow therapeutic cloning, Professor Mackay-Sim says that scepticism about the developmental potential of adult stem cells “can no longer be sustained in the face of considerable scientific evidence to the contrary”. His own research team discovered that adult stem cells from the organ of the sense of smell in the nose can be induced to become liver, heart, muscle, kidney, blood, fat, and nerve cells, amongst others. He is exploring their use in spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and motor neuron disease.
He also observes that there are “numerous” clinical trials with adult stem cells, but none with embryonic stem cells, because of continuing problems with immune rejection and uncontrolled growth.
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