April 16, 2024

Another researcher turns to reprogrammed cells

Is Harvard’s George Daley changing his tune?
George Q. DaleyAmerican
researchers have used reprogrammed stem cells to produce “diseases in a dish” –
cell lines which will allow them to study
10 different disorders –
including muscular dystrophy, juvenile diabetes, bubble baby immune disorder,
Down syndrome and Parkinson’s disease. These stem cells, which were created
without making human embryos, can be used to study the genetic basis of the
disorders or to discover new drugs, or eventually for clinical applications.
The research has been published in the leading journal Cell.

“We wanted to produce a large number of disease models for
ourselves, our collaborators, and the stem cell research community to
accelerate research,” said lead researcher George Q. Daley, of the Harvard Stem
Cell Institute. “The original embryonic stem cell lines are generic, and allow
you to ask only basic questions. But these new lines are valuable tools for
attacking the root causes of disease. Our work is just the beginning for
studying thousands of diseases in a Petri dish.”

However, Dr Daley, a former president of the International
Society for Stem Cell Research, still insists that therapeutic cloning and reprogramming should
continue in tandem.

Like a
number of other leading stem cell scientists, Dr Daley seems to be quietly abandoning
human embryonic stem cells, which are obtained by destroying human embryos.
This represents a radical about-face. Back in 2005 he testified before the
US Senate that: “
Although [reprogramming] is worth pursuing, it is
extremely high-risk, and may take years to perfect, and may never work as well
as nuclear transfer [cloning], which we know we can practice today.” He was
certain then that therapeutic cloning was the only sure path and demanded a
change in legislation. “Already proven routes to obtaining embryonic stem cells
from excess IVF embryos or through the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer,”
he continued, “should not be put on hold pending the outcomes of the more
speculative methods.”

As it turns out, by using these “more speculative methods”
Dr Daley and his colleagues have made more progress in six months than he had
in years toiling over embryonic stem cells. ~ London
Telegraph, Aug 7