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Thread: Biden Faults Palin on Stem Cells

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Scott,

    I would not be so quick in dismissing a potential role of stem cell research in Down's syndrome. I am actually beginning to do some of this research recently because we found that lithium seems to induce a gene in stem cells that seems to play a major role in Down's syndrome. While I don't know whether stem cells themselves will be therapeutic for Down's syndrome, it appears that changes in stem cells behavior play a major role in the development of Down's syndrome.
    Interesting. Thanks for the smackdown.

    Stem cell research is not just using stem cells to treat diseases. Stem cells research is about understand how and what stem cell do. This understanding will result in better understanding of so many diseases. This is why the Bush restriction of human embryonic stem cell research was so bad. It has held back our understanding of what how and what embryonic stem cells do.

    I predicted back in 2001 that we would have induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells. After all, stem cells are only cells that express certain genes. If we express those genes in cells, they will become stem cells. But, having IPS cells does not reduce the need for human embryonic stem cell research. There is more to stem cells that just being able to induce them. We have to find out what they do because what they do is the basis of all development. Down's syndrome is a developmental disorder resulting from trisomy 21 (an extra 21st chromosome).

    Wise.
    Agreed. I see your point(s).

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Scott,

    I would not be so quick in dismissing a potential role of stem cell research in Down's syndrome. I am actually beginning to do some of this research recently because we found that lithium seems to induce a gene in stem cells that seems to play a major role in Down's syndrome. While I don't know whether stem cells themselves will be therapeutic for Down's syndrome, it appears that changes in stem cells behavior play a major role in the development of Down's syndrome.

    Stem cell research is not just using stem cells to treat diseases. Stem cells research is about understand how and what stem cell do. This understanding will result in better understanding of so many diseases. This is why the Bush restriction of human embryonic stem cell research was so bad. It has held back our understanding of what how and what embryonic stem cells do.

    I predicted back in 2001 that we would have induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells. After all, stem cells are only cells that express certain genes. If we express those genes in cells, they will become stem cells. But, having IPS cells does not reduce the need for human embryonic stem cell research. There is more to stem cells that just being able to induce them. We have to find out what they do because what they do is the basis of all development. Down's syndrome is a developmental disorder resulting from trisomy 21 (an extra 21st chromosome).

    Wise.
    Dr Young,
    Thank you for shedding a different light on this information. Any chance that a reporter with follow up article interest would chat with you or the down's syndrome scientists and publish this information?

    I think sometimes "we" and I'm part of the "we" get so caught up in "our" issues that we miss the bigger picture. For me, I get caught up in SCI and ALS and diabetes research and when the direct application of science doesn't catch my interest (i.e. downs syndrome) then I dismiss the bigger picture and the larger implications.

    The strangle hold on American research under the current President has much greater implications than the fact that his veto of esc initiatives has brought SCI research to a crawl. This is a fact I need to remember when talking with folks who don't share my interest but may be willing to support esc candidates because esc impacts their initiatives.

    Would love to see the response from Palin's folks to the research you cite. Sadly, I'm afraid it won't sell papers.

    Thanks again Dr. Young.

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Pruett
    Interesting. Thanks for the smackdown.


    Agreed. I see your point(s).

    Sorry, I didn't mean to put you down at all. The glimpses that we have had in the past several years have produced what I call a paradigm shift in cell biology. Several years ago, I gave a Friday Night Lecture at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole on the subject. Let me point out a number of interesting phenomena that stem cells have brought to our attention and has changed the face of biology as we know it.
    • Self-replication. The definition of stem cells is now changing to cells that are pluripotent and can replicate themselves. It appears that most cells cannot reproduce themselves. As stem cells differentiate, they lose their ability to self-replicate. More studies are required to find out when embryonic stem cells stop self-replication and what genes are responsible for self-replication. If you stop to think about it, this is a truly revolutionary concept. If you open up any biology textbook, usually the first cellular activity that you see described is mitosis, the process of a cell making a duplicate of itself. This is of course what bacteria and yeast cells do. However, this is apparently not what most mammalian cells do, except for stem cells and cancer cells.
    • Fusion. We have always been taught that cells interact with each other by secreting molecules (hormones or neurotransmitters) or present molecules on their surfaces (cell adhesion molecules) that interact with other cells through receptors. Indeed that is how neurons talk to each other. But, it seems that stem cells do something else. They fuse with somatic cells, including neurons. This is bizarre. We don't know what to do with cell fusion. Yes, we understand that macrophages can eat cells. We also understan that certain types of cells are designed to fuse, i.e. myoblasts increase muscle size by fusing with the muscle. However, the concept of stem cells going around and fusing with somatic cells gives me the creeps because we don't know why and what for.
    • Immortality. Stem cells, at least at the embryonic stem cell phase, appears to be immortal. Most primary cells of the body (including adult stem cells) appear to divide a limited number of times before they simply stop. It seems that ability to reproduce forever is something that only stem cells (and only some stem cells) have. Like self-replication, it may be too dangerous an ability to allow most cells to have. If a cell is immortal, the body loses control over that cell. Cells that have lost control of their growth also become immortal. So, most of the so-called "cell lines" that we have are all stem cell lines or cancer cell lines.
    • Pluripotency. A stem cell is pluripotent, i.e. make many different kinds of cells. Obviously, it doesn't make all different kinds of cells at a time. it makes them in sequence. It so happens that the first set of cells that an embryonic stem cell makes are neural stem cells. This makes sense that this is so because one of the first parts of the embryo to emerge is the neural crest cells that form the midline. The next stage are mesenchymal cells (these form the muscle and bones). Endodermal cells are last (these form endothelial cells, mucosa and inner linings of the body). Interactions between neural stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells result in sensory organs. Interactions between mesenchymal stem cells and endodermal stem cells result in the major digestive and other organs of our body. So, pluripotency is a regulated phenomenon that has sequence and timing. It is not clear that IPS cells do this.


    The most common developmental diseases are likely to be stem cell problems. For example, spina bifida occurs when the neural crest cell do not develop completely, resulting in incomplete closure of the spinal canal. Clearly, something went wrong with the timing or extent of neural crest cell migration and growth. Very often the problem is not the absence of a particular gene but too much or too little of a particular protein. Thus, for example, Down's syndrome is trisomy 21. This means that there are three copies of the 21st chromosome. There is a higher dose of proteins made from the 21st chromosome. We recently discovered that lithium increases stem cell expression of a gene believed to be associated with Down's syndrome. We are writing this up for publication and so I can't provide the details. However, I mention it because it gives some food for thought.

    For some reason, they think that embryonic stem cell research are causing the slaughter of thousands of little babies. This is of course not true. In vitro fertilization clinics are throwing away thousands of fertilized eggs that blastocysts that they deem are not suitable for transplantation. These are being thrown away regardless of research. So, the choice is not between killing them and saving them? The choice is between throwing the cells out or using them to save lives.

    Opponents of stem cell research are afraid of baby factories being used to create organs and body parts that would be used to rejuvenate old people and to keep them alive. This is nonsense. Fanciful science fiction novelists imagine evil scientists cloning people who want to duplicate themselves. I am not sure myself that cloning is such an evil thing but if society feels that bad about cloning, it is very easy to stop reproductive cloning with legislation. It is important to point out that it has nothing to do with embryonic stem cell research.

    Stem cell therapies are going to be very different from what even science fiction writers are dreaming about. In many cases, stem cell therapies will be coming from our own bodies. Of course, in the case of genetic diseases where it doesn't make sense to use cells with the same genetic problem, it is necessary to use stem cells from another and presumably normal individual. Stem cells will be used to deliver genes to specific parts of the body. In most cases, we may not want to use stem cells themselves but differentiated cells grown from stem cells.

    Study of and understanding of human embryonic stem cells will be essential for rapid progress in understanding development and also developing effective stem cell therapies. I am aghast that people who are so ignorant about stem cells are making decisions concerning stem cells. Anyway, returning to the topic of this thread, what does Sarah Palin know about stem cells that qualifies her to make a decision on stem cell research for the American people? I am not sure what she knows but I am concerned that she doesn't understand that embryonic stem cell research may hold the key to prevention of Down's syndrome and many other developmental disorders.

    Wise.

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