In 2009, President Barack Obama slightly eased restrictions on the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research that was first funded by his predecessor, President George W. Bush, but limited to specific lines. Using an executive order, Pres. Obama allowed for a few more lines to be created while still obeying President Clinton's Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which limited research on embryos.
But hESC research has been more political hype than reality - the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine convinced state voters to take on $3 billion more in debt with the assurance that Republicans in Washington, D.C. were suppressing the science and that if California showed leadership, there would be rapid advances in curing diseases. CIRM has successfully redistributed taxpayer money and the CEO gets a $500,000 annual paycheck to manage 56 government employees, which has to make small business owners chuckle, but for the public and for science not much has been realized. In a few years, the money will be gone and it is politically untouchable to suggest more debt to fund it again.
Unlike the political spin involving hESC, funding for somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is actually prohibited by the federal government, even though therapeutic cloning is not used to clone a human being. But science continues to find ways around the Obama administration's ongoing ban - by not using embryos. Researchers have shown they can reprogram adult stem cells into pluripotent stem cells by nuclear transfer. Those are embryonic-like, they can develop into all the cells of our body, including those in the brain, heart, liver and blood, but because they are adult stem cells they are not restricted or banned by the federal government.
(a) Immunochemistry to determine chromosome condensation and histone phosphorylation after transfer of a somatic cell at interphase. Scale bar, 5 µm. (b) High-quality blastocysts obtained after nuclear transfer with the manipulations. Credit and link:
“Human pluripotent stem cells generated from adult cells may change the face of medicine,” said Nissim Benvenisty, cancer researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in their statement.
Citation: Mitsutoshi Yamada, Bjarki Johannesson, Ido Sagi, Lisa Cole Burnett, Daniel H. Kort,
Robert W. Prosser, Daniel Paull, Michael W. Nestor, Matthew Freeby, Ellen Greenberg, Robin S. Goland, Rudolph L. Leibel, Susan L. Solomon, Nissim Benvenisty, Mark V. Sauer, Dieter Egli, 'Human oocytes reprogram adult somatic nuclei of a type 1 diabetic to diploid pluripotent stem cells', Nature 28 April 2014 doi:10.1038/nature13287
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