A new lease of life

SCIENTISTS have claimed a major breakthrough in stem cell research that is expected to usher in a new era in this controversial field of science. Researchers announced that they have discovered a way to potentially gain unlimited access to stem cells by converting ordinary skin cells into embryonic stem cells that are said to hold the key to curing many diseases.

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Published: Thu 22 Nov 2007, 8:43 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:59 AM

Or, in other words, adult skin cells can be made to regress or rewind to their embryonic state. The feat is expected to put an end to the use of cloning as a way of producing stem cells.

Apart from providing a much-needed fillip to stem cell research that came under fire in 2005 when the UN passed a resolution calling for a ban on human cloning as well as on this field of research, the latest finding is definitely good news for pro-life groups, especially in countries like America. For harvesting stem cells from embryos to treat diseases like Alzheimer's or even cancer, embryos need to be destroyed and this brings in ethical and moral issues.

Renewable organs, disease-free life or even agelessness - innumerable opportunities seem to be opened up by replacement and reproduction through cloning. But it also raises several questions. For instance, is the idea of scientific progress at variance with social or ethical concerns?

Anti-abortion lobbies in America, where President Bush has imposed serious limits on stem cell research, have hailed the breakthrough by saying that scientists have finally found an alternative to advancing their research without killing embryos. But scientists have cautioned that it will be wrong to shelve embryonic stem cell research altogether and the latest discovery is yet to clear several hurdles.

Nevertheless, the breakthrough does hold out the hope of effectively dealing with the ethical concerns regarding stem cell research.

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