Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, associate professor in the department of anatomy and cell biology at Detroit’s Wayne State University School of Medicine, wrote an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (posted online 9-02-06) about the current state of stem cell research. She explored the common arguments for the superiority of embryonic over adult stem cells, and found each lacking in practical or rational force.

 

Peduzzi-Nelson argues that adult stem cells are not only the only source of fruitful stem cell research at this point in time, but that the successes in adult stem cell research may obviate the practical need for embryonic stem cells. While the entire article is worth the read, one portion in particular is worth quoting here. Regarding the potential of embryonic stem cells to form into any one of the body’s 200+ cells Peduzzi-Nelson writes, “The ‘potential of embryonic stem cells to possibly form every cell type’ in the body is amazing but is of little clinical relevance. As long as a stem/progenitor cell is capable of forming the cell types needed for a particular injury or disease, the capability to form every cell type is a moot point.”<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–> In other words, so long as adult stem cells are able to form the cells we need to treat/cure disease, it is irrelevant how many other types of cells an embryonic stem cell might be able to create. What is needed are useful cells, not unuseful cells.

 

And by the way, the reason scientists say embryonic stem cells have the potential to morph into any of the body’s more than 200 cell types is because scientists have not been able to coax embryonic stem cells into doing so. While stem cells do so naturally in the normal development process, scientists have not yet discovered how to replicate the process in the lab.

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<!–[if !supportFootnotes]–>[1]<!–[endif]–>Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, “Adult cells are behind much of stem cell success so far”; available from http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=489953; Internet; accessed 25 September 2006.