February 24, 2024

Are embryonic stem cells ideal for drug testing?

Embryonic stem cell may not be as good as scientists forecast

One possible use for controversial human embryonic stem cells, apart
from possible therapies and research into genetic diseases, is
testing new drugs to see whether they might be toxic in humans.
Animal trials are often unreliable, as compounds which appear to be
safe in animals may harm people. Now Gabriela Cezar, an animal
scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has begun
investigating whether the stem cells will actually work. The answer,
it seems, is "not yet".

She tested a drug which is known to produce birth defects, valproate,
and measured changes in the concentrations of certain molecules.
However, a scientist at MIT, Steven Tannenbaum, says that whether her
results are useful is still unclear. The liver metabolises drugs into
other forms.
"This group has taken valproic acid, which is normally
extensively metabolised in the body, and exposed it under unrealistic
conditions." Cezar acknowledges this and says that the problem
might be overcome by morphing embryonic stem cells into liver cells
before testing them. ~ Technology Review, Dec 13