Marlowe's Shade

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More Problems with Embryonic Stem Cells

From LifeSite

BALTIMORE, September 6, 2005 ( - Human embryonic stem cells have long been known to be unstable and difficult to control. In some cases, where they have been used directly in therapeutic trials, the use of embryo stem cells has been disastrous for patients. Now a researcher from Johns Hopkins University, an institution that has backed the use of embryos for research, has found that embryonic stem cells that are cultured in the lab accumulate genetic changes that may be linked to cancer.

Like a genetic game of “telephone” the longer the cells are cultivated, the more the genetic errors grow. Says Dr. Aravinda Chakravarti a geneticist at the Institute of Genetic Medicine of Johns Hopkins University in a report in the journal Nature Genetics, “These mutations we are finding are a much bigger problem.”

I'm not a biologist, but this doesn't sound encouraging:

Chakravarti’s research team found that as they were cultured, stem cell lines went through 35 cell divisions and found that 90% showed changes in patterns of methylation – the process in which certain genes in a cell are turned on or off – 22% had mutations in mitochondrial DNA and 50% had major deletions or amplifications in the DNA. Moreover, it was the connection between the particular genetic problems the cells developed and the formation of tumours that was most worrying.

“[I]f it turns out these cells really do become unstable over time,” Chakravarti said, “then that would put limits on the practical life spans of the cells and their usefulness for therapeutic purposes.”

Don't expect to see this in the MSM:

Chakravarti told the New Scientist that a possible solution would be to use the cells only when they are new and before extensive cultivation and division. However, the use of embryonic stem cells for disease treatment depends upon a long process of cultivation and differentiation into particular tissue types. Chakravarti’s discovery may end any lingering hopes of using embryo stem cells directly in therapeutic applications.

The ESCR initiative in this country and the UK seems to be losing steam already. This should be a fatal blow to federal funding, but whether the media will sit on it remains to be seen. As Tim reported the other day on ProLifeBlogs, it may have to be pricipled scientists themselves that blow the whistle. We'll see if this is enough to stop this boondoggle.

Crossposted on ProLifeBlogs
papijoe 6:05 AM