A Japanese woman has become the first person to receive stem cells created from her own skin cells. Called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), these next-generation cells are so promising they earned their inventor a Nobel Prize, according to Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science.
The 70 year old patient was living with macular degeneration, an eye condition that can lead to blindness, when she agreed to take part in the surgery. Opthalmologist Masayo Takahashi of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology had created the iPS cells from the patient’s skin and then enabled those cells to segregate into retinal pigment epithelium cells which then grew into a sheet for implantation. While it is not likely that the patient’s lost vision will be restored, doctors are hopeful that the implantation will prevent further damage to her eyes.
This amazing advancement has proven to be safe in studies done on both monkeys and mice, however, doctors will be watching for signs of immune reaction or tumors as possible side effects.
“We’ve taken a momentous first step toward regenerative medicine using iPS cells,” Takahashi said in a statement. “With this as a starting point, I definitely want to bring [this technology] to as many people as possible.”
This news is good for everyone, but those who are against controversial embryonic stem cell research should be particularly happy about this advancement. Not all stem cell research is equal and embryonic stem cell research involves the destruction of human embryos, humans at the earliest stages of development. While embryonic stem cell research is still a highly debated hot topic, it hasn’t proven as successful as adult stem cell research has. And every day, human embryos are sacrificed in a misguided attempt to move science forward.
Therefore, this advancement in the ability to create stem cells from a person’s own skin is an enormous step forward in science, but also an advancement that will hopefully lead to the eventual abandonment of embryonic stem cell research altogether. If we can create the cells we need from our own skin, then we won’t need to create other humans, only to destroy them for our own benefit.