Friday, June 6, 2008

JJNN 16 June 6th, 2008

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday June 6th, 2008. Today I will be covering a very interesting science news story.

Today I will be talking about a new idea for stem cells that is coming out in Japan. The original story can be found here. Stem cells are very interesting little cells. Stem cells are what are called "pluripotent cells." A pluripotent cell is a cell that can turn into any fetal and adult cell type. It can give rise to anything from a bone cell to a lung cell.

The stem cell that people usually hear about in the news are embryonic stem cells. These are cells that are that are derived from a blastocyst, the early stage of an embryo. Last I knew, scientists in America could not use embryonic stem cells because of many things, including the stupidity of the president.

There is, however, a different type of stem cell called iPS cells. This stands for induced pluripotent stem cells. Basically, a non-pluripotent cell is injected with certain genes and turns into an non-embryonic, fully pluripotent stem cell. These cells, of course, have the advantage that they are not taken from embryo, so they are not so "morally gray." These cells were first produced in 2006, so they are still testing the cells out to see if they work just like embryonic stem cells.

Any way, that is a basic background on stem cells. I haven't even talked about the news story yet. It turns out that they are thinking about making a "cell bank" in Japan. What this cell bank will do is hold the genetic material that could be used for medical treatment. In other words, someone will grow nerve cells (or it could be any other organ or other part of the body) and keep it in the cell bank. When a person needs the cells they can be used for medical treatment.

I don't think anything like this will be happening any time soon, but let's just think about what would happen after this "cell bank" got off the ground. I am not a doctor so I can't grasp the little effects of the existence of this bank, but I can think about is the biggest effect. We wouldn't have huge waiting list for transplant operations any more. So many of the same organs for many different blood types could be kept in the cell bank. The result of this would be little or no wait for transplant.

I am sure there are other effect that would come about. If you can think of any more let me know. Personally I am all for things like this bank. The only thing I really worry about is who would end up running the bank. This article says it should be set up and run by a collection of different people, but that doesn't really do anything to assuage my fears.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 細胞(さいぼう). It is pronounced saibou and means cell. Since is it Friday, I am going to go give the cells in my liver a workout.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.


  1. That's a great idea. They already have tissue banks around the world. My father served on the board of directors for one that was based in England and had a storage facility in Northern PA. They would take all the tissues from people that donated their bodies for donations and grow more cells of that type.

    I.e. they would take liver tissue and use it to try to grow more liver tissue, etc.

    Don't know why it didn't catch on more than it did...

  2. Maybe because the "moralists" decided people need things like their liver tissues when they die to drink with big guy.