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Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered 86

An anonymous reader writes "The National Institutes of Health, the top funder of biomedical research in the U.S., has closed a program designed to bring induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from the lab to the clinic. It has made no public mention of the closure, but the website has been deleted and Nature News reports that the center director, Mahendra Rao, resigned his post in frustration after the program allocated funds to only one clinical trial in its last round of funding."
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Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered

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  • certain whack-a-loon true believer in congress will be happy.

    • They shouldn't be.

      Induced stem cells are the huge area of research devoted to finding ways around using embryonic stem cells. Basically, it's everything but embryonic stem cells in stem cell research.

      We will, eventually, have reliable, cheap mechanisms for inducing stem cell potential in non-embryonic-derived cells, but only by continuing research on how to make them.

      This is a travesty.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        This doesn't mean that just any proposal that mentions the magic words should get the nod. This seems to be a case where only ONE adequate project was proposed.

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          Only one got past an external review board. Who was on that board? qualified experts in the field, or elected officials?
          I"m being a little paranoid, but I ahve spent a lot of the last 15 years or so trying to get some people in congress to understand science and watch them just cut programs. People saying things like 'Science should only be funded if it makes money'. Elected officials with that level of ignorance is really shameful

      • I suspect this is related to the dust-up caused by Haruko Obokata [] and the charges being hurled her way. Some of the (maybe, apparently, possibly fraudulent?) most promising work is under fire at the moment.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:58PM (#46695553) Homepage Journal

    This sucks regardless of what side of the aisle you are on.

    There are diseases where the only known effective treatment at this point in time is stem cells. And those are/were in the trial stages.

    Fuck politics.

    • This is bureaucratic troubles, not partisan politics. No one is opposed to iPS on ideological grounds. Well, no one who is worth considering anyway. iPS aren't made from embryos. ESC are the ones that conservatives hate, that come from fertilized eggs.
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Let me explain the title of the post.

        I was the third poster. The first two were fuck Obama posts.

        I don't give a shit if it's W or Obama or Ted Cruz or Pelosi or whoever. It sucks. period.

    • And not a single one of them is treated with embryonic stem cells. Because of tumors.
    • One of the main issues is lack of understanding of embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.
      We classify Stem Cells in one group... However the issue with embryonic stem cells are that they come from aborted human fetuses. Which many people would consider sacrificing a human life just to perform scientific research, this usually falls in the unethical category. However there is a group who doesn't consider a fetus to be human life, so it would fall in the ethical category.
      Politics being politics, will no

      • However the issue with embryonic stem cells are that they come from aborted human fetuses.

        This is right-wing propaganda at its worst. embryonic stem cells DO NOT COME FROM ABORTED HUMAN FETUSES. They come from left over embryos that those seeking fertility treatment no longer need. They were never aborted because they were never implanted in the first place. Because they were never implanted, they never had the chance to develop into anything near resemblance to a fetus. Please get your facts straight, no matter which side of the debate you are on.

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      There are diseases where the only known effective treatment at this point in time is stem cells. And those are/were in the trial stages.

      Fuck politics.

      This is the thing that frustrates me the most about the current political situation. A few nihilists who have taken over one of our parties (the "Republican" one), are able to screw over the whole system so that nothing productive can get done. But that's not the worst part; any gamer can tell you that the world is full of griefers. The worst part is that they are getting away with this behavior because nobody blames them directly. So here you're clearly ticked, but you blame "politics". Why aren't you bla

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:08PM (#46695675)

    It's not because of the subject that the research is being stopped. The NIH, along with the NSF and NASA, had its science budget cut during the sequester and it hasn't recovered. Lots of programs all over the country are being discontinued as a result.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      I don't think that's the answer this time. This time it appears that only one adequate proposal was received.

  • Everyone knows stem cells are bad. We can't let rational thought and facts get in the way of our crusades.

    Seriously, at this point the anti-embryonic stem cell movement has tarnished the name and scientists should pick a new name to avoid these sort of issues in less objectionable forms of stem cell research.

    • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

      This is about iPS.

      If you don't know, that's the umbrella term for all stem cells that are NOT derived from embryonic material. Effectively if you're against embryo-related stem cell research, but would like stem cell research itself to continue, iPS research is what you're going to be investing into. One of the main points of iPS research is about getting a cheap way to manufacture stem cells without having to extract them from an embryo.

  • by DTentilhao ( 3484023 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:11PM (#46695711)
    Mahendra Rao, M.D., Ph.D.

    "Dr. Mahendra Rao is internationally renowned for his research involving human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and other somatic stem cells. He has worked in the stem cell field for more than 20 years, with stints in academia, government and regulatory affairs and industry. He received his M.D. from Bombay University in India and his Ph.D. in developmental neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology.

    Following postdoctoral training at Case Western Reserve University, he established his research laboratory in neural development at the University of Utah. He next joined the National Institute on Aging as chief of the Neurosciences Section, where he studied neural progenitor cells and continued to explore his longstanding interest in their clinical potential.

    Most recently, he spent six years as the vice president of Regenerative Medicine at Life Technologies in Carlsbad, California. He co-founded Q Therapeutics, a neural stem cell company based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served internationally on advisory boards for companies involved in stem cell processing and therapy; on committees, including as the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationâ(TM)s Cellular Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee chair; and as the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and International Society for Stem Cell Research liaison to the International Society for Cellular Therapy." ref []
  • and China and Taiwan and South Korea and places that like massive grants of private funds

    It's like you don't get that research gets done no matter what you "say".

    Seriously, you're wasting your time.

    (not speaking for anyone, just telling you what happens IRL)

  • Makes good research but I wonder if it could ever by economically viable. Maybe someone can enlighten me and explain otherwise.

    I imagine if it ever hit mainstream with usage on a public daily basis, you'd need millions of embryos, perhaps even every day? What? Would women be expected to line up for embryo drives like we have blood drives today?
    • by Doubting Sapien ( 2448658 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @08:42PM (#46700637)
      Please mod parent up, as it ought to be considered an honest question deserving of an honest answer.

      I work with human embryonic stem cells (hESC). I'm going to hazard a guess that you've bought into certain propaganda efforts attempting to mislead the public into believing ESC research "destroys" embryos. That is not at all the case. First a primer in cell biology: At a certain stage in their life cycle, most normal "somatic" cells enter a stage called "senescence" where they may continue to live but no longer divide and will eventually die. Stem cells, on the other hand, have the unique ability to continue dividing indefinitely without becoming "old". This "self-renewal" property makes a stem cell culture very much like the "mother dough" a baker would use to perpetuate starter cultures for years or decades.

      Our lab uses uses cells that originated from fertility treatment at my institution's OB/GYN clinic. Individuals who have achieved a successful pregnancy would consent to allow fertilized but unimplanted embryos to be used for research purposes. (If we didn't ask for them, they would have been destroyed as medical waste.) During the early stages of growth, all the cells in the embryo have stem cell qualities and are all "self-renewing". Under artificial growth conditions, these cells are coaxed into remaining stem cells without developing further into a fetus with all different types of tissues and organs. As such, they remain masses of stem cells that could be split/divided and given to research groups as necessary.

      So you see, a single embryo can establish a "cell line" that (depending on culture methods and/or skill/technique of cell-culturist) can be maintained indefinitely by researchers. At the moment, the "economics" of this has more to do with the resources needed to grow them rather than obtain them. Cell culture growth media is incredibly expensive right now because it is hard to keep these delicate, finicky guys happy in lab conditions. (Stem cells like growing in an organic environment - not in a dish.) So far, embryonic stem cells are only being used for research as a way to study some fundamental things that are still poorly understood. (Like for example how to grow cells intended for tissue/organ transplant in artificial conditions cheaply and reliably. Expect cost to come down as we make progress on this front.) My lab, for example, only grows enough of them to support a few experiments at a time on DNA damage/repair. Now, the anticipated therapeutic use of stem cells are different. But you would not necessarily need millions of them as one would as in the case of drug manufacturing to produce useful proteins. Because stem cells are "self-renewing", conceivably you only need enough of them to keep itself going in, say, replacing a failed organ or tissue.

      At the moment, it is too early to concretely say what the future might look like where stem cells are commercially used for therapies. A couple of possible guesses for how they can be obtained: 1) a person donates his/her own by having parents who made the smart decision to bank "cord blood" saved from the umbilical cord when the baby was born. 2) the small minute number of stem cells that circulate in the blood or exist elsewhere in the body can be extracted. 3) Cells from other parts of your body that have already specialized into certain cell types can be treated to return them to a "stem-cell-like-state". This last thing is what people are talking about when they mention "induced pluri-potent stem cells" (iPSC). In any case, I find it hard to come up with a scenario where stem cells take on the qualities of a commodity to be produced for mass consumption. I suppose anything is possible, but other problems need to be solved along the way, like how to prevent organ rejection when your immune system recognize that your implant doesn't belong to you.

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