by JivinJ, host of the blog, JivinJehoshaphat
The patent office ruled against the groups in 2008 but last week agreed with their argument that [UW-Madison scientist James Thomson's] work should not have received a patent because other scientists could have done the same that if they had his funding and access to human embryos....
According to Dr. Steve Stice, director of the U of GA Regenerative Bioscience Center, his team took a bone marrow cell from a pig and injected 6 new genes, which caused it turn into an embryo-like cell. Pluripotent stem cells were harvested from this embryo-like cell and injected in another pig embryo.
The first piglets carrying these new stem cells were born September 3, 2009.
So far human embryonic stem cell research has not actually found its way into the human body. Most of the research is still in mice. But mice aren't the best animal models to get more accurate data on how a treatment may affect a person. For example, mice hearts beat four times faster than a human heart and mice don't get atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) - but pigs do. That's why pigs are much better animal models says Stice. "Physiologically, pigs are much closer to a human," he says.
The stem cells' source is donated tissue from the spinal cord of an 8-week old aborted fetus, which was donated to the company. [At left is a photo of a 7 1/2 week fetus.]Also interesting:
Lead researcher Dr. Eva Feldman, a neurologist at the U of MI, designed the trial just 4 years ago. After a lot of animal testing, her team determined that using fetal nerve stems rather than human embryonic or adult stem cells (such as bone marrow stem cells) was most effective, she says.
Stem cells have the ability to turn into different cells in the body. However, human embryonic stem cells, which come from 4- or 5-day-old embryos, also been found to sometimes turn into cancer cells. Fetal stem cells, such as those used in this trial, are a few weeks older and have already taken on a specific identity -- in this case nerve cells.
Feldman says the fetal stem cells used in this trial did not become any of the unwanted cell types.
[Photo of 7 1/2 week fetus: Endowment for Human Development]