Science and politics might have one less fight on their hands. Researchers are reporting in the journals Cell and Science that they’ve transformed human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells, which could revolutionize medicine and potentially lead to cures for numerous diseases.
Yes, we’ve heard these kinds of bold proclamations before, but by numerous accounts, this is the real thing. If that’s the case, it could effectively erase the debate about the ethics of destroying embryos to extract stem cells for research. Two teams of scientists, at Kyoto university in Japan and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, used a virus to add four new genes to each skin cell. Some of these then changed back into pluripotent stem cells, the version that can become almost any cell in the body. At this point they’ve managed to transform the cells into heart, brain and muscle tissue.—Gregory Mone