Recently, with Christmas still over a month away, two independent teams of scientists gave the world an early holiday present. And this is a gift that may keep on giving for years to come.
I’m talking, of course, about the announcment on November 20th that researchers had converted ordinary human skin cells into embryonic stem cells. They did this by simply adding four genes that caused these cells to de-differentiate into a “pluripotent” form. If the works holds up, such cells could become the foundation for growing all kinds of starter cells, with the promise of cures for heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes, to name just a few possibilities. According to the New York Times:
Researchers and ethicists not involved in the findings say the work, conducted by independent teams from Japan and Wisconsin, should reshape the stem cell field. At some time in the near future, they said, today’s debate over whether it is morally acceptable to create and destroy human embryos to obtain stem cells should be moot.
There is still a lot of work to be done, and actual clinical trials on humans may actually be years away. But the ethical concerns that have so bitterly divided our society on this issue may be alleviated.
Imagine — men and women of good faith, from all different religions and worldviews, working together to solve the health problems of humanity.
Stay tuned. This could be a wonderful Christmas present indeed.