Better stem cell tech, more controversy

Over at Pacific Standard, I offer brief layman’s guide to the latest pluripotent stem cell technologies, and I argue that better stem cell technology will not make the ethical controversy go away. (In last week’s Nature, Martin Pera & Alan Trounson make a similar point.)

To understand where I’m coming from, let’s take a step back a few years, in the aftermath of the Bush Administration’s controversial decision to limit NIH-funded research on human embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines. Back then, much of the debate was over the merits and ethics of ESC’s versus lineage-restricted adult stem cells: ESCs were for the most part derived from leftover IVF embryos or aborted fetuses (and thus didn’t carry the genome of a patient). Adult stem cells could be taken from patients, but were much more restricted in their potential applications. Dolly the sheep was old news at that point, but the technology to create Dolly (and thus also create embryonic stem cells with the genome of a living adult) did not actually work with human cells. Continue reading “Better stem cell tech, more controversy”

Smarter mice are safer than smarter sharks

deep blue seaI don’t know if you’re familiar with the cinematic gem Deep Blue Sea, but as far as ridiculous neuroscience sci-fi horror movies go, it is awesome. Let me summarize the plot for you. A group of researchers is working in an underwater lab trying to cure Alzheimer’s. Their proposal involves genetically engineering three Mako sharks to enlarge the size of their brains. Somehow, the researchers plan to harvest these huge brains and then use the tissue to cure Alzheimer’s…  Lets just say, they didn’t cure Alzheimer’s and spoiler! Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten in one of cinema’s greatest death scences. Continue reading “Smarter mice are safer than smarter sharks”

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