Stem cells that are put under stress actually mimic embryonic cells, a new study shows. Creating these cells in a lab, rather than using human embryos, can certainly change the future of cloning. Being able to clone without the use of human embryos removes the ethical debate associated with the procedure.
The work of Japanese scientists may be game changing. Their discovery has recently been published in the journal Nature. Dr. Haruko Obokata from the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology discovered that stems cells could be manipulated to trigger change. Exposure to acid and pressure forced them to develop. They termed this phenomenon STAP, stimulus-triggered acquisition of puripotency.
Initially they did lab tests on mice, exposing drops of their blood to acid. Mice embryos were exposed to a nearly lethal acidic environment for up to half an hour. They didn’t see any change at first. By the second day of the experiment however, stem cells appeared to be green and glowing which showed signs of change and growth.
They found that applying pressure and exposing cells to acid initiated change. The notion was taken from nature. Crocodile eggs, for example, change when exposed to different temperatures. New tissue developed when scientists tested this theory, which could be used to repair damage from illnesses. Also, the future of cloning could advance thanks to this new discovery.
Stem cells mimic embryonic cells, which can then morph into any type of cell that the body need to repair itself. They are essentially master cells that can be used to replace damaged cells.
Human testing is underway now and scientists are finding results similar to that of the mice. The implications of their findings are revolutionary. They could potentially change medicine and the ability to treat cancer. Providing affordable and timely cures for diseases is key to saving lives. Not only would stem cell therapies be cheaper, safer, and faster than methods that are currently being used but they won’t use human embryos.
Typically embryonic stem cells divide and make new cells within an organism. They can form any one of the 200 cells in the adult body from hair and skin to organs. Embryos offer the best opportunity for research because thy haven’t yet developed into cells with a specific function. These cells that are derived from human embryos are taken from fertilized eggs from in-vitro clinics, yet they remain controversial. Not everyone is on board with using embryos for scientific research.
Ethical complications of cloning have interfered with research thus far. Cancer research and cloning have been limited due to the sensitive nature of the process. Protesters argue that human life begins at conception and it’s unethical to use human beings for scientific testing. Though human cloning isn’t taking place yet, animal cloning and therapeutic cloning are.
The new research performed by Dr. Obokata and her team doesn’t require the death of an embryo, however. Stem cells are created in a lab that mimic embryos and behave like them. Scientists are making discoveries that are changing the future of cloning. They are paving the way for similar trials and may impact the treatment of life-threatening illnesses.
By Tracy Rose