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June 02, 2005

Very Good News on the Biological Science Front

Carl Zimmer summarizes:

Of Stem Cells and Neanderthals: Closing the Circle: Corante > The Loom > : Today in Science scientists reported a potentially big advance.... [T]ake skin cells from patients, inject them into donated eggs emptied of [the eggs'] own DNA, and nurture them along.... The cells were able to develop into a wide range of cell types, their chromosomes were normal, and they were so similar to the cells of the indvidual patients that they would not be rejected as foreign tissue. The research stopped there, but the dream behind this work is to heal your failing liver or heart or dopamine-producing neurons by clipping off a little skin and farm new cells that could regenerate those organs....

Reading about this advance, I felt a grim sense of irony. As I wrote in my original post, President Bush stopped federal funding for research on stem cells using new lines... despite the fact that most of the already existing lines were contaminated by this lost sugar. American scientists have been making some progress with stem cells with private money and state initiatives, but guess where scientists finally figured out how to solve this evolutionary problem with cell sugars? South Korea.

Reading about this research, I was also reminded of an article I read last week during the Kansas 'trial' over evolution and creationism.

Leonard Krishtalka, the director of the Kansas University Natural History Museum, was quoted pointing out how Kansas is raising $500 million to foster a bioscience and biotech industry in the state. It was ironic, he said, that the state's board of education was simulataneously 'trying to remove and water down the basic fundamental concept of evolution that underlies all of biology.'

Case in point: try to imagine a stem cell therapy company deciding where to set up shop. I doubt they'd be excited about a state that doesn't make sure their high school students understood mutations, natural selection, the origin of species, the fossil record, and all the other elements of evolutionary biology--that thinks it's fine just to claim that the broken sugar gene in our genome was just stuck there for reasons unknown by some mysterious designer...

Posted by DeLong at June 2, 2005 12:08 PM