About iPS Cells

As the stem cell technology advances, it is now possible to generate many kinds of cells from the stem cell. It is surely a good news for those suffer from diseases which would only be cured by replacing the impaired cells with healthy cells, like congenital diseases, aplastic anemia and paralysis. The most potential cell is the embryo stem cell(ES cell), because it is capable to generate all kinds of cells from it. But ES cells also bring the most controversial ethical topic because human ES cells, in some points of view, is a life of human beings. And the operation we conducted is just like killing one person to cure the others. Though this opinion may be extreme, but it notices us to be cautious to put it into use.

The standstill of the usage of ES cells may be a kind of pity, but iPS cells have illuminate a more bright way for us. With nearly the same potential of differentiation with ES cells, iPS cells, which is induced from somatic cells, can overcome most of the ethical obstacle. As it is previously a somatic cell rather than "a whole life", and its unique identity away from ES cells, we will only consider using it as "using one's own cell to cure him". To prove this, the father of iPS cells, Shinya Yamanaka, has compared the genome of iPS cells and ES cells, and has found many evident differences in gene expression and epigenetic modifications. Though as iPS cells are different with ES cells on procedures to form new cells and tissues and it needs more research, but we believe that iPS cells, which is more reasonable on ethical concern, will show great performance on biology and medical fields, and be a salvateur to people suffering from diseases.

Our project is aiming at solving a problem of the inducement of iPS cells, and we will be glad to be a assistant for the future hero-iPS cells.

About gene therapy

Gene therapy is a treatment of modifying genes to prevent or cure diseases. As it operates on gene level, its effect is significant and permanent. But it has raised a new ethical problem, that if we have the right to work as the god, to change the gene of ours and our offsprings. Actually, our circuit doesn't meet the problem into that extent. We only changed genes in a small part of terminal differentiated cells, or iPS cells to be differentiated to only one kind of somatic cells. The original genome remains unchanged in most of the cells, so it works just as easy as adding a metal supporting part to people has impaired bones.

One of the most concern about gene therapy is that it does/does not have influence on offspring. But this dilemma only occurs on germ cell gene therapy. Many countries ban germ cell gene therapy but permit somatic cell gene therapy, because it brings less concern on the right of our offspring to get a unchanged genome. Moreover, "an unchanged genome" never exists because natural mutation occurs during the whole history of mankind, so the insertion of some human genes does not seem so unnatural in this way. We must be cautious in the field of gene therapy, and avoid our self-conceit to arbitrarily change gene as we want. But we still must not be so hesitate to move forward, because there are many people suffering from diseases. If we can't cure it, we can only show sorry for them. But if we can but we hesitate, it's our crime to do so.

Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

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