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New Method of Making Stem Cells

By: Rachel Waddle

 

Scientists may have discovered a new method to create stem cells that does not involve the destruction of embryos. Researchers have said that they could turn mature cells into embryonic-like stem cells by stressing them in various ways- such as lowering the oxygen in the environment and disrupting the cell membrane or putting the cells in an acidic environment. After these cells have been stressed they can then be turned into any other type of cell. These cells are called STAP (stimulus-triged acquisituion of pluripotency) cells.

 However, there are a few problems.

Scientists have so far only demonstrated this method using the white blood cells of mice. They don’t know yet whether this method will work on humans, its effectiveness, or what risks it might pose.

Doubts about the research have been cropping up, and in February, the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, said it was investigating “alleged irregularities” with the proposed method.

Other experts have been unable to reproduce the findings. Teruhiko Wakayama, co-author of the study and a professor at the University of Yamanashi in Japan, says outside experts need to do more research into this method of creating stem cells.

Recently, Riken has opened an investigation into the irregularities discovered  in the papers. Dr. Haruko Obokata, who published the stem cell papers, has stated that she doesn’t intend to retract the papers. She says that her results don’t effect the main results- the phenomenon in the papers had been “confirmed on many occasions.”

Wakayama continues to believe that the papers should be retracted.