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News Flash: Grow Your Own Body Parts

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We’re not there yet, but promising news comes in a report that German scientists have been able to grow “embryonic” stem cells from some simple cells taken easily from the testes of male mice. Reason suggests that women probably harbor similar capabilities — they just haven’t identified which and where yet in females.

Clearly, we’re going to have to come up with a different word now for these almost infinitely potent stem cells that can grow into virtually any other living tissue. The term “embryonic” has negative connotations related to the controversy over when an embryo-should-be-considered-a-fetus-should-be-considered-a-child. Despite the routine destruction of frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization procedures, the use of such discarded (abandoned) embryos to generate stem cells has raised huge debates in the United States, though not in many other countries.

We can only hope that this discovery will quickly lead to developing simple procedures for harvesting human cells that will let us all experience the miraculous benefits of stem cell therapies without compromising anyone’s ethical positions.

And we can sit back again and marvel at the wonders of the universe — that we carry within our bodies the ability to heal ourselves. Hey, if a humble planaria worm can grow a new head, why wouldn’t humans be able to grow new body parts?

In just a few years, we’re all going to wonder what took so long.

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  • dingmann bruce usa st cloud mn.

    ok to grow well body parts you need pain free.

  • Thanks, Alethea. Had to look up teratoma: Malignant teratoma is a type of cancer consisting of cysts that contain one or more of the three main types of cells present in embryos — ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm cells.

    With that information, LD’s comment about the Science writer not knowing is well taken.

  • There are pluripotent cells in human ovaries. That’s been known for a while, too. I have personally observed a fully differentiated molar and hair within a teratoma when I spent a college wintersession in a pathology lab. The question is not “can the cells become differentiated” but how to get them to do what you want, not too much either! (that is, control their growth)

  • Hey, thanks, #1 LD. When I wrote about this on another blog of mine (www.biomednews.org) I at first latched onto the word “plenipotent” but thanks to your expertise I changed it to pluripotent.

  • LD

    we’ve had a word for 70 years – “pluripotent” or “totipotent” depending on their potential – a science writer for the Post who can’t get this straight should be canned