In November of last year, researchers in Wisconsin and Japan announced that they had successfully transformed regular adult cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the need for embryos. The advance (involving so-called induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells) pointed to a potential path around the moral and political debate over embryonic stem cell research, but some advocates argued that because the technique relied on retroviruses, which might be connected to some risks of cancer, they might not be safe for clinical use.
Today in the journal Science, a group of Harvard researchers reports successfully reprogramming adult cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells without the need for such retroviruses, and so without the cancer risk.
Recall that a technique for reprogramming adult cells without using any stem cells at all was also recently published. This makes two entirely plausible strategies for regenerative medicine that do not require the destruction of embryos. President Bush’s decision to take an ethical stand is looking better and better.