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More vindication for the ethical nature of iPSCs

I've written before about iPSCs, which are reprogrammed cells that mimic the behavior of cells derived from embryos, only without requiring the destruction of any embryos. I want to stress up front that iPSCs are similar to embryonic stem cells in that there is for both a cancer risk arising from treatments using them. However, it appears that iPSCs should be able to be used for all the research purposes for which scientists wanted embryonic stem cells.

Some people have continued to raise questions over whether iPSCs are really ethical. In the case of those on the left, it's pretty obvious that this is sour grapes. After declaring loudly and pompously that pro-lifers are blocking the course of science and causing sick people to die and what-not, they find it difficult to admit that ethical science has proven them wrong. So they obfuscate. I write about some of that obfuscation, as carried out by a science writer named Paul Krzyzanowski, here.

On the pro-life side, there has been some genuine confusion on this subject. One person who keeps pushing such confusions (which I realize she does not take to be confusions) is a Dr. Dianne Irving. I did not write a blog post about this LifeSite News article, but I did respond to it in the comments section here.

In my response I pointed out that there is reason to question whether antigens called "embryonic," which apparently have been found in a small proportion of cultured iPSCs, actually indicate that the cells in question are the cells of an embryo.

Well, confirmation for my suggestion has just come through from those much better qualified than I. See this Lifenews (not to be confused with LifeSite News) article by David Prentice and Maureen Condic.

As it turns out, the phrase "embryonic antigens" is highly confusing. These antigens, Condic and Prentice state, are also found on

--adult cells in the brain, stomach, colon, mammary gland, and kidney, and

--cancer cells.

They also point out that the so-called "embryonic antigen" in question is not expressed by the totipotent zygote or by the early cleavage-stage totipotent cells. In other words, contrary to what the term "embryonic" might seem to mean, the presence of the antigen that Dr. Irving is concerned about does not indicate that a human embryo is present.

This is good news for pro-lifers who want to be clear in their own minds about whether iPSC cells are ethical to use in research.

HT: Wesley J. Smith at Human Exceptionalism

Comments (4)

Often scientists come up with clumsy but accurate terms for this kind of thing, like "embryonic-mimic antigen" or something that indicates only that it has the appearance, not the actual source implied by the lone word "embryonic". A Bill says in his original piece, language is important in helping us form our thoughts successfully - in corresponding to reality.

An early developer of medical applications for stem cells was Advanced Tissue Sciences out of La Jolla, California. Dermagraft-TC skin replacement was their signature product. Dermagraft had applications for partial thickness, and severe wounds as well as diabetic foot ulcers. The source of the stem cells was foreskins from infants. Other stem cell applications Advanced Tissue Sciences was working on engineered human cartilage for orthopedic applications and heart valves for cardiac applications. Sadly, Advanced Tissue Sciences, the maker of Dermagraft went under. They were not adequately financed to jump through the costly FDA approval process. Some of us joked at the time the FDA would have probably rushed through approval if the source of the stem cells was embryonic instead of infant foreskins.

Those would have been fully differentiated, aka "adult," stem cells, despite coming from infants. Now there are a lot of adult stem cell treatments approved by the FDA, but I don't know how separate approval processes vary depending on the ultimate source of the cell lines.

So far, adult stem-cell treatments remain the most successful, and they do not have the cancer risk associated with either iPSCs or ESCs. It is, however, true that adult stem cells, including bone marrow, cannot differentiate into all the tissue types on which scientists have their eyes fixed.

My own _guess_, but only a guess, is that we will never find a form of stem cells that can differentiate into _all_ cell types (including the coveted nerve and pancreatic cells) but _without_ the cancer risk. There are no solutions, only tradeoffs and compromises.

This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!!
Finaly I've found something that helped me. Cheers!

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