New Scientist Reports: “Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered”-And It’s Not Embryonic

Date: 01/24/2002

Research may render recent NAS cloning endorsement moot

New Scientist (1/23/02) reports that “a stem cell has been discovered in adults that can turn into every single tissue of the body. It might turn out to be the most important cell ever discovered.”

The cells were found in the bone marrow of adults by Catherine Verfaille and co-workers at the University of Minnesota. Dubbed “multipotent adult progenitor cells,” or MAPCs, they can, according to Ihor Lemischka of Princeton University, “differentiate into pretty much everything that an embryonic stem cell can differentiate into.”

According to New Scientist, if the findings are confirmed, “there would be no need to resort to therapeutic cloning – cloning people to get matching stem cells from the resulting embryos. Nor would you have to genetically engineer embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to create a ‘one size fits all’ line that does not trigger immune rejection.” Already, the MAPCs have passed tests that are considered the “gold standard” in assessing their ability to form every tissue in the body. “The data looks very good, it’s hard to find any flaws,” said Princeton’s Lemischka.

Moreover, New Scientist further reports, while the MAPCs share many of the positive attributes ascribed to embryonic stem cells, they do not share the negative ones: “Unlike ESCs, for example, they do not seem to form cancerous masses if you inject them into adults.”

These findings come within a week of a National Academy of Sciences report that called for expanded use of cloning to create human embryos that could be harvested for their stem cells or used in other such destructive research. The NAS report appears to have been superceded by the current research announcement, as MAPCs could very well render obsolete such calls for experimental human cloning. Indeed, even before these findings, many scientists had come to doubt any therapeutic benefits from cloning, given the costs, inefficiencies and dangers associated with cloning.

The discovery of MAPCs is a major advance for both patients and researchers, as it advances the science of regenerative medicine, while avoiding the ethical pitfalls of cloning and destructive embryonic stem cell research. Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics believes that these new findings on the efficacy of adult stem cells provide even further evidence against cloning human beings for research purposes, and for a comprehensive ban on human cloning. The findings also provide the most compelling evidence to date that adult stem cells, even more than embryonic stem cells and human cloning, offer one of the most scientifically promising avenues of medical research, with none of the moral controversies.

The New Scientist article can obtained online at:

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics is a national coalition of researchers, health care professionals, bioethicists, legal professionals, and others dedicated to the promotion of scientific research and health care which does no harm to human life. Do No Harm rejects the course of action taken by the National Institutes of Health, to support destructive human embryo stem cell research. Instead, our government should promote adult stem cell research which protects the inviolability of all individuals, rejects harming some for the potential benefit of others, and holds as much, if not more promise, for medical progress.