The week was buzzing with stem cell news. Sadly, The Scientist blog has a piece claiming that Embryonic Stem Cells are Still the Gold Standard.

“”We need new human embryonic stem cells,” said Jaenisch. “They differ enormously from iPS cells,” and understanding the reprogrammed cells will be impossible without good human embryonic stem cells. In particular, these two types of cells are derived in completely different ways and therefore, a clear understanding of how safe iPS cells are, or how they may behave in therapies, is still a long way off. “

Of course the story below has nothing to do with embryonic stem cells but all to do with umbilical cord blood banking – which we need to get behind and start banking a whole lot more of cord blood! Leukemias are often treated with stem cell transplants from cord blood – which is why the couple below are going to create a “savior sibling” for their little girl. Unfortunately, that means they will make embryos in the lab and implant the donor ‘matched’ baby in the mother’s womb. And most likely discard the others . . .

Ethics of having a baby to harvest stem cells questioned:

Maria and Rick Kent want to do all they can to save their 23-month-old daughter from leukemia.

That desire is propelling the Simi Valley, Calif., couple down an intricate and controversial path. They plan on having another child to increase the chances that Hailey Joy will be able to find a match if she needs a second stem cell transplant.

We also learned this last week that the stem cell field has been energized and continues to grow. However, it is because of the breakthroughs in iPSC research that has prompted this ethical surge. At a meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Philadelphia tlast 2,500 delegates attended, something ISSCR president Dr. George Daley finds encouraging.

“The discovery last year of induced pluripotent stem cells — ordinary skin cells that can be transformed into something that looks very much like an embryonic stem cell — has energized the field, Dr. George Daley said.”

And Yamanaka has just announced that he has made improvement on his iPSC technique.

“In Saturday’s closing session of the annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Researchers, Yamanaka reported that he had combined all six genes used by his lab and Thomson’s and had been able to double the reprogramming efficiency.

Yamanaka also reported that he had been able to reprogram liver and stomach cells in addition to skin cells.

Some of the genes used are known to cause cancer, and Yamanaka reported that reprogramming has led to tumors in a significant number of mice. Finding an alternative delivery system to viruses is “a technical issue,” he said, adding after the meeting that he expects to see it resolved relatively soon.”

Yamanaka, along with Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell have just been awarded the Shaw Prize. The prize in Life Sciences and Medicine is awarded for, “Discoveries in the biomedical sciences and innovations in clinical medicine have led to significant victories in our longstanding war against illness and suffering.”

Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.