The Washington Post has an article on-line today discussing scientists’ recent success with transforming living cells within living subjects. As the article indicates, this may eventually lead to great progress in curing disease, but will most assuredly cause controversy and debate.
The cells transformed were those from within a mouse’s pancreas that, when flipping what the scientists deemed were the key molecular switches, converted a common cell into an insulin-producing cell. While there will be numerous tests which will take a good length of time, this indicates that there is potential in humans to perform a similar procedure in order to cure diabetes. The scientists hope that such treatment can also be applied to those with heart disease and other illnesses.
Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has already stated his support for this proposed method as he hopes it will end the need for stem cell research. Unlike stem cell research, where the cells to be converted are taken from dead embryos, the cells in this procedure would be able to be taken from a living person.
Still, many claim that stem cell research is needed, especially as this new procedure has yet to be performed on cells from any other living specimens aside from mice. It is uncertain how the procedure will transfer, and advocates of stem cell research claim that this new procedure may not be as useful.
The only problem I see with this new procedure is that advocates of stem cell research make a very valid point – this new procedure may not transfer over to humans. However, with research already being done to examine this potential roadblock, it seems that scientists are hopeful that they will be able to apply a similar procedure on humans. To be able to take cells from a living person and convert those into useful healthy cells that can cure disease would be ideal. It would avoid the issues associated with stem cell research, while meeting the goals that stem cell research was attempting to reach.