Well, this is a really whopper of a story regarding stem cell research. The Washington Post reports:
Scientists are reporting today that they have overcome a major obstacle to using a promising alternative to embryonic stem cells, bolstering the prospects for bypassing the political and ethical tempest that has embroiled hopes for a new generation of medical treatments.
The researchers said they found a safe way to coax adult cells to regress into an embryonic state, alleviating what had been the most worrisome uncertainty about developing the cells into potential cures.[…]
Scientists last year shook up the scientific and political landscape by discovering how to manipulate the genes of adult cells to revert them into the equivalent of embryonic cells — entities dubbed “induced pluripotent stem” or “iPS” cells — which could then be transformed into any type of cell in the body. Subsequent work has found that the cells can alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell anemia in mice.
But the first iPS cells were created by ferrying four genes into the DNA of adult cells using retroviruses, which can cause cancer in animals. There was also concern because the viruses integrated their genes into the cells’ DNA in the course of transforming them. In the new work, Hochedlinger and his colleagues used a different type of virus, known as an adenovirus, which does not integrate its genes into a cell’s DNA and therefore is believed to be harmless, to ferry the same four transformative genes into the DNA of mouse skin and liver cells.