iPS cells, a big breakthrough
The future is in the iPS cells, believes Dr James Thomson. Dr Thomson is the man who set ablaze the field of stem cell research, when he became the first scientist to isolate and develop methods to culture the human embryonic stem cells. That was 10 years ago. Since then, scientists world over are busy finding ways and means to take this research further and apply it to finding solutions to diseases plaguing the mankind while the research itself has been inciting hot debates and has drawn in right from the Church to politicians across the globe.
In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that to some extent the November presidential election in the US hinges on ending political restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The issue is powerful enough to force Obama and McCain clarify their stand on stem cell research.
But have no illusions. Mired in legal, regulatory and ethical issues any stem cell cure would have to go through the necessary "rite of passage". The effective therapies could be five years down the line or maybe more than a decade away. Science is a world of high stakes and even Dr Thomson cannot see the future and predict with certainty what route this research will take and how long will it be before we arrive any closer to delivering regenerative medicine to the masses. At the World Stem Cell Summit 2008 (Sep 21-23) in Madison, US Dr Thomson advised scientist to keep an open mind. He stated that there could be evidence to show that the iPS cells are fatally flawed.
Induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells is a big breakthrough in the stem cell research arena. Dr Thomson and his team of researchers successfully reprogrammed the human adult skin cells to act like human embryonic stem cells. The breakthrough it is said is likely to change the course of action making research on embryonic stem cells redundant, given that iPS cells are remarkably similar to human embryonic stem cells. Besides researchers can skirt all the ethical issues related to human embryonic stem cells (hES) and can make as many iPS cells they need for research.