Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's not SCNT cloning that matters; it's the stem cell line

Of the recent work by Stemagen, the Boston Globe noted:

"It's very convincing, [it's] just not that big a leap," said Dr. George Q. Daley, president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research and a stem cell scientist at Children's Hospital Boston. "The real holy grail is to generate a pluripotent stem cell line from a cloned human blastocyst. It's only a matter of time before some group succeeds."

The Globe also stated:

"No other scientific group has documented the cloning of an adult human cell, much less been able to grow it to blastocyst stage," said Andrew J. French, Stemagen's chief scientific officer and lead author of the research.

A blastocyst is an embryo about five days old and containing 50 to 200 cells. This is the stage at which stem cells - capable of forming any of the body's 220 cell types, including blood, bone, and nerve tissue - can be harvested for research or therapy, a process that destroys the embryo.

See also:

Of the Yamanaka work , note the following from the Australian:

The Office of Pharmaceutical Industry Research reported last year that Japanese biotech drug development, as a ratio of overall drug development, lagged the US, Britain, France and Germany by about 50 per cent.

The disappointing performance in applied biotechnology is often attributed to Japanese science's alleged weakness at radical innovation, though it's a generalisation that doesn't sit convincingly with the nation's international scientific patents, or Nobel Prize winners over the past 20 years.


Last week, Yamanaka told reporters in Tokyo that aspects of the iPS discovery - though not stem cell therapy, which might be a decade away from clinical application, even if the research continues going well - have reached another breakthrough point.

"The other applications, like toxicology and drug development, it's ready to go," he said.

"We can use iPS cells in these applications today, if somebody can pay a lot of money - like pharmaceutical companies."

Those applications involve using iPS cells to create, for instance, neural cells outside someone's body so they can be tested for personal disease factors, or for an exactly tailored drug treatment.

"Translational research", the move from pure research to clinical applications, might not start immediately. The Yamanaka method of producing iPS cells is expensive, inefficient and time-consuming

And it has not yet been demonstrated that iPS cells have all the positive qualities of embryonic stem cells.

However, the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this technology must be highly attractive to pharmaceutical giants.

[IP comes up]

Yamanaka says Kyoto University's intellectual property department is already in discussions with pharmaceutical and venture capital firms.

Yamanaka's team has moved stem cell research closer to clinical application than anyone else.

Yet he fears the moment of opportunity may be fleeting.


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