Wednesday, November 21, 2007

News On The Stem Cell Front

I'll bet many of you have read the latest news stories about how skin cells have been coaxed to behave like embryonic stem cells. This is a fascinating study and one that bears follow-up in the months/years ahead.

However, contrary to President Bush's recent comments, these findings do not eliminate the need for human embryonic stem cell research, nor will it end the stem cell debate. In order to prove that these new skin-derived stem cells are as good as, or better than, human embryonic stem cells, direct comparisons must be made between them under a variety of conditions. In order to make direct comparisons, all stem cell types are needed, embryonic and otherwise. To limit further study on skin-derived stem cells alone, it would never allow us to answer the question of which cell type might work best for diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, spinal cord injury, etc.

In no way does this minimize the significance of findings regarding skin-derived stem cells or stem cells derived from other tissue types. But I do think that it's important to ensure that stem cell researchers have access to a wide variety of cell types for future study, including human embryonic stem cells. Let's keep this issue at the forefront and encourage federal funding for all stem cell research.

Friday, November 02, 2007

R.I.P Washoe

Washoe the chimp died on Oct. 30th at the age of 42. She was the first non-human to learn American Sign Language (ASL). She was named for Washoe county, Nevada, where she was raised and trained in ASL. At the time of her death, she resided at Central Washington University.

There was controversy about the project and the claims that Washoe could use 250 ASL signs. Still, the project was groundbreaking in the field of animal communications. Washoe eventually passed on her knowledge of ASL to her adopted son Loulis.

R.I.P. Washoe.