Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo describes the results of a research project at Johns Hopkins as clearing a “path to the fountain of eternal youth.”
And Brian Dodson at Gizmap explains the scientists “have developed a reliable method to turn the clock back on blood cells, restoring them to a primitive stem cell state from which they can then develop into any other type of cell in the body.”
In what could be a blow to the scientific process encouraged by Barack Obama, to destroy embryonic lives to obtain stem cell tissue, researchers at Johns Hopkins have e developed a way to obtain stem cells, the basic building blocks of human life, without destroying embryonic life.
“Taking a cell from an adult and converting it all the way back to when that person was a 6-day-old embryo creates a completely new biology toward our understanding of how cells age and what happens when things go wrong, as in cancer development,” said Elias Zambidis, an assistant professor of oncology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering and the Kimmel Cancer Center.
In an announcement from the research center, he explained that the team on which he worked took cord blood cells, treated them with growth factors and used plasmids to transfer four genes into them.
“They then delivered an electrical pulse to the cells, making tiny holes in the surface through which the plasmids could slip inside. Once inside, the plasmids triggered the cells to revert to a more primitive cell state,” the research center reported.
“The discovery could be the key to cure the incurable – from heart attacks to severed spinal cords to cancer – and open the door, some day, to eternal youth,” wrote Diaz at Gizmodo.
He said there are a number of significant developments.
“To start with, it uses normal adult blood cells from the patient, so there’s no need to keep umbilical cords in storage. It also doesn’t use any virus reprogramming, so it’s completely safe. It’s also very efficient: researchers successfully transformed about 50 to 60 percent of adult blood cells into embryonic stem cells that can then be turn[ed] into any type of cell – a heart muscle cell, a bone cell, a nerve cell, anything.”
The study, published on the PLOS (Public Library of Science) One, is called “Growth Factor-Activated Stem Cell Circuits and Stromal Signals Cooperatively Accelerate Non-Integrated iPSC Reprogramming of Human Myeloid Progenators.”
Its contributors included Tea Soon Park, Jeffrey S. Huo, Ann Peters, C. Conover Talbot Jr., Karan Verma, Ludovic Zimmerlin, Ian M. Kaplan and Zambidis.
“We demonstrated that efficient myeloid reprogramming correlated not to increased proliferation or endogenous Core factor expressions, but to poised expression of GF-activated transcriptional circuits that commonly regulate plasticity in both hematopoietic progenitors and embryonic stem cells (ESC),” the abstract explains. “Factor-driven conversion of myeloid progenitors to a high-fidelity pluripotent state was further accelerated by soluble and contact-dependent stromal signals that included an implied and unexpected role for Toll receptor-NFκB signaling.”
The Johns Hopkins announcement said the team’s work in producing virus-free iPS cells “may speed research to develop stem cell therapies, using nearly all cell types, and may provide a more accurate picture of cell development and biology.”
“Hypothetically, if you’re able to perpetually fix any part of your body, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to live as long as you wanted,” wrote Diaz. “We are not there yet, of course, but the path is more open and wider than ever.
“More importantly, this makes the whole political debate about embryonic stem cells absolutely pointless,” he said.
Added Dodson: “In ongoing studies, Zambidis and colleagues are testing the quality of the newly formed iPS cells and their ability to convert to other cell types, as compared with iPS cells made by other methods. If they live up to their early performance, the field of stem cell therapy may be able to shift from debatable possibility to welcomed fact.”
Kevin Lee at PCWorld said, “The research sounds promising, to say the least. The availability of stem cells, which can become … whatever kind of cells you need, could one day lead to all new types of therapies.”
At Medical Xpress, a commentary noted that the cells “converted to a primitive stem cell state within seven to 14 days.”
WND previously reported that a study prepared for the Journal of Translational Medicine suggested that a commercially available supplement can increase blood circulation of hematopoietic stem cells, which can mature into blood cells: white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets, and endothelial progenitor cells, which reside in the adult bone marrow or circulate in the blood and repair damage to blood vessels.
At that time, Thomas Ichim, CEO of Medistem Inc., worked with a team of 13 researchers from industry and academia to investigate whether the supplement, containing a cocktail of green tea, astralagus, goji berry extracts, “good” bacteria lactobacillus fermentum, antioxidant ellagic acid, immune enhancer beta 1,3 glucan and vitamin D3, could increase the number of stem cells circulating in the blood.
The team recruited 18 healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 72 who took the supplement twice daily. Researchers took blood from the adults before beginning the course and tested for cell activity in the following days. They then confirmed whether taking the supplement changed the overall levels of hematopoietic stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells in the blood.
“Hematopoietic stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells increased after taking the nutritional supplement, suggesting that the supplement may be a useful stimulator for both types of stem cells,” the report said. “In this study, the levels of these stem cells peaked at 2-7 days and started to drop at 14 days, suggesting that this supplement could be used for continuous treatment for conditions associated with decreases in these stem cells such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
Medistem also previously reported a medical advance that would make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. The group also revealed fat cells may be used to slow or repair physical nerve deterioration caused by the incurable multiple sclerosis. Three patients treated with fat procedures “showed dramatic improvement in their condition.”
The ethics of embryonic stem cell work has been a hot issue in the United States, since acquiring such cells requires the death of an embryo. Federal funding for the projects was limited under President George W. Bush but restarted by an executive order from Barack Obama.
Christians and others say destroying any life, including the unborn, is morally repugnant, but a paper promoted by the National Institutes of Health says it’s only wrong to kill life when it’s “wanted.”
The American Life League said, “Obtaining stem cells from a human embryo is highly unethical. There is only one way to obtain stem cells from a developing human embryo, and it involves killing the embryo. A human embryo is an innocent human being in his first stage of life. It is always and in every case morally wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being at any point in life.”
But Thomas Douglas and Julian Savulescu argued for NHI that “it is, with the consent of the parents, morally permissible to conduct destructive research on embryos that are not wanted. … Moreover we also argue that it is morally permissible to produce embryos specifically for research.”