NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Stem Cells Minus The Ethical Baggage

June 21, 2002

Adult stem cells may be far more flexible and versatile than originally believed -- raising hopes they could reduce the need for embryonic stem cell research. That is the conclusion of Katherine Verfaillie, director of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute.

  • Studies she led showed that bone marrow stem cells from adult mice can evolve into most, if not all, tissues of mice.
  • Embryonic stem cells -- and now, it seems, cells from adults -- can differentiate into any type of tissue, a trait that could make them valuable in treating certain diseases, such as Alzheimers's, diabetes and Parkinson's.
  • Pro-life groups oppose the use of embryonic stem cells because human embryos must be destroyed in order to obtain the cells.
  • Verfaillie and her colleagues provided evidence for the first time that adult bone marrow cells can differentiate, both in a test tube and in a living mammal, into cells of all three embryonic skin layers -- endoderm, ectoderm and mesoderm.

Another study, by Ronald McKay of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, showed the embryonic mouse stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease in rats.

Source: Joyce Howard Price, "Study Supports Versatility of Adult Stem Cells," Washington Times, June 21, 2002


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