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Up Next: A Lobby to Protect Adult Skin Cells?

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.


The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.