January 08, 2007

Alternative source of stem cells

My favorite thing about science is that discoveries are borne out of necessity. Progress is rarely hindered by obstacles and restrictions; they are simply hurdles to be overcome. Rising gas prices, global warming and consumer dissatisfaction will drive us to seek alternative fuels.

Similarly, the moratorium on embryonic stem cell research has forced researchers to consider alternative sources for stem cell research. Amniocentesis is a procedure performed during pregnancy to diagnose a number of genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. Down Syndrome, spina bifida (or other neural tube defects like anencephaly), Rh factor incompatibility and lung maturity can all be detected.

Recently, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have found that left over amniotic fluid has stem cells in an intermediate stage between embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Leftover amniotic fluid can stored in a bank and with a storage of just 100,000 specimens, a perfect genetic match can be made for 99% of the U.S. population, potentially revolutionizing transplantation.

If these preliminary results withstand political and scientific scrutiny, we may be on the brink of a whole new line of research with direct medical benefits.


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