Stem Cells, Ya’ Hoser!

From Holden:

Canada joins South Korea in whizzing by the U.S. in the field of biomedical research.

Canada’s first two batches of human embryonic stem cells have been approved by an international regulator, opening the way for scientists to explore potential treatments and cures for a variety of diseases.

As reported in The Globe and Mail last month, a team of Toronto scientists was the first to develop the batches, or lines, of stem cells, which seem to have retained the ability of the original stem cells to turn into various tissue types.

The lines were certified by Britain’s International Stem Cell Initiative, which standardizes the world’s stem-cell lines.

“This is an important step; this places Canada on the map of embryonic stem-cell research,” said Andras Nagy, a senior scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute.

[snip]

Canada’s law governing stem-cell research, passed last year, is one of the strictest in the world. It makes it a criminal offence to clone or create a human embryo for research. The only human embryos Canadian scientists may use for stem-cell research must come from couples willing to donate them for that purpose. The embryos that were the origin of the two Canadian cell lines were surplus donated by couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization.

The lines were developed according to the stem-cell guidelines of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, a federal research-funding agency. Unlike the traditional method of harvesting the cells from frozen embryos, the lines were generated from fresh embryos.

“In this particular case, the parents [seeking to have a test-tube baby] decided not to freeze [the surplus embryos] and decided to donate specifically for stem-cell research,” Dr. Nagy said.

There are not enough data to establish which source, fresh or frozen, is better to establish cell lines, he added. However, Canadian research groups trying to extract stem cells that have been frozen for several years have had no success.