Monday, March 9, 2009

Media Release - Stem Cell breakthrough: virus-free iPS cells

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Monday March 2nd 2009.


“Today’s ethical stem-cell breakthrough, published in the leading scientific journal Nature, is another nail in the coffin for cloning” according to Dr David van Gend, National Director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research.

• The story was embargoed until early this morning, and broke today at the BBC: ‘Ethical stem cell creation hope’ at

• The Nature title is: Virus-free induction of pluripotency and subsequent excision of reprogramming factors

“In a beautiful technical advance, scientists have managed to insert reprogramming genes into ordinary human skin cells to achieve full pluripotency (i.e. the equivalent of Embryonic Stem Cells) without using any viral vectors” Dr van Gend explained.

“This furthers the revolution of ‘iPS direct reprogramming’, dating to November 2007, whereby we can now create the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from our own body cells, without ever using women’s eggs or cloning a human embryo – and that removes all the ethical concern from this magnificent field of medical research.”

Dr van Gend points to the fact that the Upper House of Western Australia threw out a cloning Bill in February 2008, in the light of this new iPS technique that “makes cloning redundant as well as wrong”, and that the South Australian Upper House is considering the same cloning legislation this week.

“Importantly, there have been concerns raised in the course of parliamentary debates on cloning laws that iPS cells are impaired by the need for viral integration during the process of 'direct reprogramming' - which could cause genetic damage.

“Now, on the eve of the cloning vote in the South Australian Legislative Council, MPs can rest assured that the concerns over viral integration have been laid to rest. This new, ethical stem cell science appears to be unstoppable – and already we have dozens of pluripotent stem cell lines derived from patients with important diseases like Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease”.

Dr van Gend’s association has written to all members of the Legislative Council of South Australia: ”There could be no more timely scientific breakthrough than this, to confirm for you that creating and destroying cloned embryos for stem cells is yesterday's redundant science: that while embryo-cloning might have been supported in good faith in the pre-iPS era, its unique justification no longer exists. No cloning legislation would have seen the light of day in the Federal Parliament if they had known in 2006 what you know now.” ENDS