The blog world is abuzz about the latest findings that two research groups that have managed to transform skin cells into embryonic stem cells by adding a few genes. (In case you missed the news, you can check it out here.)
GTO's favorite post comes from Steven Salzberg, who writes about not only the promise of these findings -- "With re-programmed ES cells, we should be able to grow replacement tissues for almost any organ in the human body, using a person's own cells as a source" -- and the potential pitfalls -- "the first problem is that both groups used retroviruses to transform skin cells into ES cells," he says. "The randomness of the method is one thing that needs work - if a retrovirus inserts in the wrong place, it will disrupt normal functions, and the resulting ES cells will be defective."
Naturally, between the media's take on this story and the political debate over embryonic stem cell lines, most people are focusing on the idea that this advance will make it possible to abandon experiments performed on real human embryonic stem cells. Salzberg says this is absolutely wrong. "Among other things, we need 'real' ES lines to be able to determine if the new ES cells are truly pluripotent; that is, to see if they're as good as the real thing," he writes.