It is brilliant! Wisconsin scientist James Thomson owns two research companies which are focusing on development of ethical iPS stem cells rather than life-destroying embryonic. Why this is so remarkable is because Thomson ushered in the era of stem cell research through his 1998 isolation of the first embryonic stem cell. Thomson, along with a Japanese scientist, announced in late 2007 that they were able to reprogram ordinary skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, now known as iPS stem cells, which have the same qualities as embryonic.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Thomson said “I personally believe that the future is in the (adult skin) cells. “ Thomson still maintains, however, that embryonic stem cell research should continue.
The move by the scientific community into ethical research that doesn’t rely on the destruction of human life is an exceptional step forward. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. Scientists can move forward with the full support of the American public to discovery of treatments and drugs to help the human condition without contention. The practical benefits are also enormous, as skin cells are plentiful, their use mitigates rejection factors, and no human cloning is needed.
It is still early for iPS cells as they have not yet been put into patients. While this research progresses, scientists have been able to ameliorate the impact of 73 diseases and conditions of real human patients using ethical adult stem cells.
Kudos to James Thomson for moving in the right direction. And, special thanks to President Bush whose 2001 policy to prohibit the use of federal funds to destroy new human embryos pushed scientists to find an ethical alternative.