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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stem cells and Lou Gehrig's disease

On July 2nd, CBS Evening News reported on what they say is a ground-breaking new technique, aimed at treating Lou Gehrig's disease, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. According to the report, it is possible to take skin cells from a patient, modify them genetically so that they become like, perhaps even identical to, embryonic stem cells, which, then, can be turned into motor neurons.

If this is true, and repeatable -- the mainstream media occasionally reports on "breakthroughs" in science that turned out to be neither -- it is remarkable, not only for the potential for treating this disease, but, probably, treating other diseases. It is also remarkable in that, as I listened to the report, and read it, I didn't see any indication that any human embryos were used in the process. Opponents of using embryos occasionally have reported that adult stem cells were as useful as embryonic ones, and that may be true, but doesn't seem to have been demonstrated yet. The research reported here seems to be a case of a non-opponent reporting a potentially important use for stem cells derived from embryos. That would be splendid.

Thanks for reading.


Keetha Broyles said...

Very interesting indeed.

I wasn't PLANNING to write a children's book - - - but you are about the fourth person to ask - - - I'm not sure if that means people think I could write a good children's book, or if it means I'm childish.

Martin LaBar said...

I think you are writing a good children's book.