Tuesday, March 02, 2004


A friend of mine pointed out a piece in the 21 February 2004 New Scientist magazine, by Ian Wilmut of the in Roslin Institute (UK), in which he says he is planning to apply for a permit to take cells from English ALS patients, and from those cells, clone human embryos for 6 days to obtain "ES" cells (Embryonic Stem cells). He intends to use the cloned cells to grow ALS motor neurons, and study them.

Wilmut led the team which cloned Dolly the sheep.

This roundabout route is necessary, he says, because it is currently impossible to obtain living motor neurons from ALS patients.

I don't know, but one assumes that if you got a look at a living ALS motor neuron, you might have an "Ah ha!" moment in which you instantly recognize some causative factor. Which would imply a possible therapy. Or maybe there would be no "Ah ha!" moment. But this step needs to be taken, just to cover all the bases.

I wonder how 'impossible' it would be to remove a motor neuron from an adult. Or is it more the case that you could remove one (with some great difficulty), but that it would quickly die and be no good for study? I assume Wilmut wants to have dozens, or thousands, of cells living in a nutrient bath, rather than one dying, ragged, torn neuron from an adult.

Also, I have heard quite a bit in the news recently about finding stem cells in fully-grown adults (e.g. in the skin, etc.). Wouldn't this be another way to culture some motor neurons without having to create embryos?

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