I’ll admit up front that I’m no expert in stem cell research, but there’s good news for both sides of the debate, according to an Associated Press story.
Instead of cloning embryonic stem cells, scientists have found a way to reprogram regular skins cells to act like stem cells. From the article:
Thomson said he was surprised it didn’t take longer to discover how to reprogram ordinary cells. The technique, he said, is so simple that “thousands of labs in the United States can do this, basically tomorrow.”
This new process will avoid the moral dilemmas that have been surrounding embryonic stem cell research. The technique is apparently easier to do and it’s seemingly just as affective. In spite of these factors, the article notes that some scientists are still unwilling to stop research on embryonic stem cells.
While I want to appreciate the researchers’ drive to study stem cells, I don’t understand why there has been such a backlash against alternative methods. If we can find another route to the same solution, (as in this case), then why insist on using controversial methods? Especially when this technique appears to be effective.
I also wonder at how much this new discovery will change the landscape of the debate. It may end up squashing any reason for debating about whether stem cells can/should be used for testing, but it’s probably not going to change anyone’s mind about the value of that embryo.