Pluripotent not Embryonic

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A collage of headlines covering Monday’s breakthrough in stem cell research, published in the scientific journals, Science and Cell, attempt to state what, to many, is not so obvious.   What we have found are pluripotent stem cells, equal to, but not to be confused with pluripotent embryonic stem cells.

    A collage of headlines covering Monday’s breakthrough in stem cell research, published in the scientific journals, Science and Cell, attempt to state what, to many, is not so obvious.  Namely, that science has achieved what we all have been waiting for: the means to obtain pluripotent stem cells without creating or destroying an embryo.  In fact, not only has the process been achieved without destroying human embryonic life, it has avoided the use of human reproductive materials all together – no egg, no embryo and no cloning technique.

 

Here is where the terminology gets confusing though.  Most pluripotent stem cells are known as embryonic stem cells – from an embryo.  With Direct Cell Reprogramming, a mature somatic cell, such as a skin cell, is found to contain, through the assistance of a few small factors, in itself the ability to regenerate back to the pluripotent state, a state similar in potency to that of the embryonic stem cell though it is important to note that it is not embryonic.  What results is a pluripotent stem cell, yes, but a stem cell produced by an adult somatic cell not to be confused as embryonic. 

 

What several secular and pro-life headlines have claimed this past week is that science has obtained embryonic stem cells not derived from embryos.  Let’s be clear folks, we have not been looking for problematic pluripotent embryonic stem cells, we have been looking for pluripotent stem cells, and we have found them.  

This new procedure, called “Direct Cell Reprogramming,” or "Induced Pluripotent State" is able to take an adult somatic cell, such as found in the skin, and send it back to its pluripotent beginning.  In essence, what this procedure does with the use of reprogramming factors, is reverse the morphological pattern of a mature adult cell back to its origin as a stem cell with the potency to produce various other stem cell lines and tissues.  Lines and tissues, it must be added, immunologicaly and directly matched to the host organism: the developed human being.  Not only does this achievement open the door to trump the speculative need for pluripotent embryonic stem cells, it also promises to overcome the heterological (between two different organisms) problems encountered, such as tumor formations, when trying to use one individual’s stem cell (the embryo’s) to heal another individual. 

 

Let it be known that with the help of science, morally, and from our own bodies, we are now able to obtain the stem cells needed to develop cures necessary to heal ourselves.  A paramount achievement for both the protection and therapy of the human person at all stages of development. 

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