The Tide Turns: James Thomson to Pursue Non Embryonic Stem Cell Research
I can't think of any more vivid example of the dramatic change in the scientific and political paradigms regarding stem cell research than James Thomson, the discoverer of human ESCs--moving away from embryonic stem cell field and into IPSCs. From the story:
With their field riding a wave of discovery and change, researchers, financiers and policy-makers from around the world will arrive today for the 2008 World Stem Cell Summit in Madison, the city where James Thomson started a scientific revolution almost a decade ago. If any need confirmation of the rapidly changing landscape, it should come with this announcement planned for the summit: The two Madison companies co-founded by Thomson have merged and shifted their focus to products involving non-embryonic stem cells.We know why, of course. Cloning hasn't exactly panned out, besides which it would be far more contentious, dangerous for women due to egg procurement, complicated, and expensive. But IPSCs have really changed the paradigm:
Ever since the reprogramming breakthrough, researchers have published a stream of papers using the new technique to rescue mice with sickle cell anemia and to create human cell lines from people with a host of different diseases. The cell lines hold the promise of allowing scientists to gain a new window into the disease process and a powerful new tool for testing drugs. Longer term, the new technology may allow doctors to use patients' own cells to treat genetic and other ailments.I have always admired Thomson. I didn't agree with him on the ethical issues, but he never pretended embryonic stem cells didn't come from embryos. He never pretended that somatic cell nuclear transfer didn't create an embryo (KC Star and Kit Wagar, hello!), and he never denied that there weren't serious moral concerns with the entire embryonic field of research.
May he live long and prosper and may the IPSCs and other ethical means of regenerative medicine succeed beyond all of our wildest dreams.