Buried deep in an encouraging story about another advance in turning skin cells into stem cells, we see more evidence of biotechnology’s ultimate human cloning goal.
First, the good news. An acid bath may be able to replace viruses in transforming skin cells into stem cells that can become any type of cell in the body. From the Nature News story:
In 2006, Japanese researchers reported a technique for creating cells that have the embryonic ability to turn into almost any cell type in the mammalian body — the now-famous induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. In papers published this week in Nature, another Japanese team says that it has come up with a surprisingly simple method — exposure to stress, including a low pH — that can make cells that are even more malleable than iPS cells, and do it faster and more efficiently.
Excellent. Ethical stem cell research that avoids using embryos should be celebrated.
But deeper in the story, the ultimate agenda surfaces. These cells — unlike embryonic and IPS cells made with viruses — can be turned into placental cells.
That could make cloning dramatically easier, says Wakayama. Currently, cloning requires extraction of unfertilized eggs, transfer of a donor nucleus into the egg, in vitro cultivation of an embryo and then transfer of the embryo to a surrogate
That’s somatic cell nuclear transfer, the process that led to Dolly, and has now successfully created embryos in humans:
If STAP cells can create their own placenta, they could be transferred directly to the surrogate.
Wakayama is cautious, however, saying that the idea is currently at “dream stage”.
Revealing that for all the discussion of cures and testing — which scientists certainly seek — I believe human cloning remains the ultimate goal of the sector.
Why? That’s when the real genetic tinkering, transhuman religious recreationism, and other Brave New World fun could begin.