In a recent post, entitled “Good News for Everyone,” we rejoiced over the news that two independent teams of researchers had converted ordinary human skin cells into embryonic stem cells. They started out with human fibroblasts, then inserted four genes that caused the cells to become pluripotent, that is, to have the ability to grow into all the major tissues of the adult human body. This has great promise for medical research, and may offer eventual cures for a variety of chronic diseases.
[T]hey tested this combination of genes in a commercially available, genetically modified cell culture, IMR90 fetal fibroblasts. (These cells were cultured from a little girl aborted at 16 weeks gestation). These cells are fetal cells, not adult cells, and they were chosen because they have been studied and the genome is well known.
There are other ethical ways to produce the DNA needed for transformation, efficiently and morally. If these means were employed to produce the needed DNA, there would be no moral issues with the use of reprogrammed adult cells for research.
Original Scientific Papers:
Takahashi, et al (Yamanaka research group in Kyoto, Japan)
Yu, et al (Thomson research group in Wisconsin)