Got to admit, I thought this was about eugenics and culture.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) accounts for up to five percent of babies born in developed countries, and the technique has yielded some five million people ever since Louise Brown was born in the UK on July 25, 1978. And that’s just humans; the technology has been a huge boon in breeding farm animals. Yet there are hints that the procedure can have some unwanted effects on the resultant embryos. One such indication is a skewed sex ratio.
Looks like the fix is just a change in culture medium. It will take some time for this to become mainstream for human IVF. It also looks like (from the abstract) that this extra bath doesn’t harm male embryos in any way, so it won’t require genetic testing of embryos to sort out the girls (extra $$$ and mandatory freeze).
The best part is that this fix will likely increase overall success rates as those female embryos that would have failed instead thrive. Even a small % increase in success means so much to people desperately trying for a child, regardless of gender.
As San Diego’s ViaCyte was in the midst of launching the first FDA-approved embryonic stem (ES) cell clinical trial for diabetes last week, Boston’s Harvard University reported that beta cells from ES cells “cured” diabetic mouse-models.
Both teams worked for years to painstakingly recreate the natural development of pancreatic islet cells— if Harvard took it further in the dish, and ViaCyte took it further to the clinic.
Type II diabetes has a stronger genetic component than Type I. People mistakenly believe that Type I is genetic because it happens in early life, while Type II is late setting. Additionally – sugar does not cause diabetes. Any diet with an unhealthy amount of things that end up as glucose rapidly will do the trick. Sugar is just one of the more readily available substances in the American diet that does. And people can develop Type II diabetes, even with a completely reasonable diet.
Eating sugar/carbs has very little to no effect at all in the development of Type I diabetes – it’s an auto-immune disorder. So the question is: how would the therapy work with the autoimmune response? These beta cells will be encapsulated in a polymeric matrix that is porous enough for insulin to pass through freely, but impermeable to immune cells, thus protecting the beta cells from destruction.
This treatment theoretically isn’t much different than islet transplantation (which currently exists – patients are on immunosuppressive therapy). The cool thing about this research is that they found a way to differentiate embryonic stem cells into immature beta cells (which produce insulin) on a large scale. So this will give us more islets for transplant (currently we only use islets from cadaveric donors – dead people) – but this doesn’t do anything to prevent islet rejection. Patients would still need to be on immunosuppressive therapy. What this means is that it doesn’t really practically change things for diabetic patients currently. Until better immunosuppressive drugs are developed, or islets are protected from the immune response (via encapsulation or a device), islet transplantation won’t be a viable option for otherwise healthy diabetics.
It doesn’t affect me, but I can’t help but feel for the people who have to deal with needles more than I do.
A team of Harvard scientists said Thursday that they had finally found a way to turn human embryonic stem cells into cells that produce insulin. The long-sought advance could eventually lead to new ways to help millions of people with diabetes.
Melton and others caution that there’s still a lot more work to do. For one thing, they need to come up with a way to hide the cells from the immune system, especially for people with Type 1 diabetes. But they’re working on that and have developed a shell to protect the cells.
There have also been examples when a procedure was first pioneered with embryonic stem cells, that later was able to be replicated with adult stem cells from the patient themselves. Initial attempts were probably made in part due to religious objections surrounding the use of embryos, but it has happened enough to consider that they might be able to do it here, with the patient’s own cells, so there wouldn’t be much of an issue with rejection.