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15 Feb 2012

Embryonic stem cells – The ethical battle and an alternative.

One of the many sources of stem cells is the human embryo. This has evoked much stir in the medical fraternity, regarding the ethics behind actually destroying the embryo to obtain embryonic stem cells. True, these embryonic stem cells go miles in curing the most incurable of diseases. That’s why, the dilemma.

The good news however is that scientists have found a way to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells. This was experimented more than a year ago. Adult skin cells were injected with a virus carrying four extra genes. The danger was that the virus could accidentally “switch on” cancer genes. Therefore the cells would not be safe enough to use in patients.

Continuous research has developed what is called “electroporation”. Through this technique, scientists did away with the viruses and ferried the genes into the cells through pores. Once the genes had done their job, they were removed, leaving the cells healthy and intact.

Using reprogrammed adult skin cells, comes with an added icing – since they are made from the patient’s own skin, they carry the same DNA, and can be used without the risk of rejection by the immune system.

What’s more, these stem cells can very soon be used to make “spare parts”, to replace diseased and damaged organs.

When it comes to sustaining precious life, there seems to always be a way out!



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