Differentiating Hope from Embryonic Stem Cells

Courtesy of Nadya Lumelsky and Ron McKay  PANCREATIC CELL PUZZLE: A cell sub-population in differentiated embryonic stem cell cultures produces pancreatic islet hormones, insulin (red) and glucagon (green). Although most cells produce only one type of hormone, the cells shown in yellow produce both. The co-production of the two hormones might signify developmental immaturity. The ethical dimension of embryonic stem cell research looms so large in the public consciousness that the underly

Philip Hunter
Dec 14, 2003
Courtesy of Nadya Lumelsky and Ron McKay
 PANCREATIC CELL PUZZLE: A cell sub-population in differentiated embryonic stem cell cultures produces pancreatic islet hormones, insulin (red) and glucagon (green). Although most cells produce only one type of hormone, the cells shown in yellow produce both. The co-production of the two hormones might signify developmental immaturity.

The ethical dimension of embryonic stem cell research looms so large in the public consciousness that the underlying science often gets taken for granted. But within the ESC research community, realism has overtaken early euphoria as scientists realize the difficulty of harnessing ESCs safely and effectively for clinical applications. After earlier papers in 2000 and 2001 identified some possibilities, research continued to highlight the tasks that lie ahead in steering cell differentiation and avoiding side effects, such as immune rejection and tumorigenesis.

In 2001, several seminal papers laid much of the groundwork, and this issue's Hot...