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Right to Recover ~ Winning the Political and Religious Wars Over Stem Cell Research in America presents scientific facts that challenge readers to think for themselves rather than accept political or religious views on stem cell research.

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RIGHT TO RECOVER is an Award-Winning Finalist in the Current Events: Political/Social of the National Best Books 2007 Awards. Amazon Best-selling book in biomedical category.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Explaining stem cells and somatic cell nuclear transfer

Amy Daly is an RN and the Executive Director of Americans for Stem Cell Therapies & Cures. She established and managed the Alliance for Stem Cell Research’s San Francisco office as Director of Patient Advocacy and Outreach. Amy produced “Spotlight on Disease” events for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in order to educate the press and public on stem cell research topics.

She is on the move to educate audiences on the complex ideas and science behind blastocyst stem cell research.

In a speech she gave June 2007, Amy Daly described the potential of this phenomenal research:

Stem cells are found at all stages of development— embryonic, fetal and adult. So called “adult stem cells” actually appear at the fetal stage and are called this because they remain with us throughout our adult life.

In fact, adult stem cells keep us alive. We truly have stunning regenerative qualities. On a regular basis, skin cells die and drop off because they live for 3 weeks or so. Our red blood cells only live around 4 months. Our intestinal cells live for 2 days. Our bodies are constantly renewing these and other tissues by using the adult stem cells we already have. But we do have some tissue that doesn’t regenerate and so we think these tissues don’t have stem cells.

As incredible as adult stem cells are, scientists are most excited about stem cells in the embryonic stage.

When an egg is fertilized, it divides into two cells, then four, then eight and so on. 3-5 days after fertilization you have a hollow ball, called a blastocyst, which, if looked at under a microscope, might look like a lumpy soccer ball. Inside this ball is a clump of 100-200 cells. These are embryonic stem cells and they can grow into every cell we need. We know this because we all began as that lumpy ball. The ball became the structural support – the placenta – and the cells inside grew into us. So there is great potential with these cells.

There is one other potential source for embryonic stem cells – nuclear transfer. This tool is also known as “therapeutic cloning” or “SCNT – somatic cell nuclear transfer”.

With nuclear transfer, scientists take an unfertilized egg, remove the genetic material (the DNA), and replace it with the DNA from a person (using a cell from their cheek or skin.) Let’s say we take the DNA from your cheek cell and put it into the egg. With electrical stimulation and the right environment, the egg becomes a blastocyst, or lumpy soccer ball. Now when we take out the embryonic stem cells, we have a line of cells that match your DNA.

In this case, researchers could encourage those embryonic stem cells to grow into functioning heart tissue or insulin producing islet cells and could inject those cells into you. You would not have to take toxic anti-rejection medication because your body would recognize these cells as your own and wouldn’t attack them. This is powerful potential, but this isn’t around the corner. Researchers have been successful in performing nuclear transfer in all sorts of animal models, but they haven’t successfully done it with human cells yet. South Korean researchers claimed to have done so, but that turned out to be false. So researchers here and around the world continue to try to perfect this technique.

Most people think of cell replacement or regeneration like this when they think of stem cell research. But the potential of using nuclear transfer as a tool to better understand and treat diseases is extraordinary.

Researchers will have the ability to see human cells develop in a way they have never seen before. This will greatly enhance research into therapies, cures and preventative measures. They could create stem cell lines that have Alzheimer's disease or sickle cell or Multiple Sclerosis. They could study these cells as they develop and see what goes wrong and when. These cells could also be used to test therapies directly on human cells, making the jump from animal studies to human clinical trials safer, faster and cheaper.

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For more information about stem cell research, please read Right to Recover, Winning the Political and Religious Wars over Stem Cell Research in America. Available on Amazon.com

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