Mayo Clinic medical policy researcher and bioethicist Jennifer McCormick has again joined her long-time collaborators from Stanford and Michigan to bring the research community up to date on the status of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) versus human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Their "commentary" - more of a research assessment report -- appears in the current Cell online.
Their bottom line is that iPS cells are not replacing ESCs as a primary research tool in regenerative medicine, but that they are complementing each other. And it's probably going to stay that way for some time. Because the two types of cells are used interdependently -- results from ESCs are used in a sense as controls to compare to findings in comparable iPSC studies -- restrictions on the former will hurt development of the latter. The authors also compared development rates of the two types of cells in the first three years after each was discovered. The research in iPS cells was much more rapid than for ESCs. They say that may be in part due to the different policy environments for each -- and cite the restrictions on ESC lines during the Bush administration.
As to future implications, they make it clear that one area of research cannot go forward or succeed without the other. ESC and iPSC research are "deeply intertwined." Based on the current activity "...any federal policy that would deny funding for embryonic stem cell research would torpedo a nascent and exciting discovery that is propelling new directions in the biological sciences. Indeed, just as political debate draws artificial boundaries between adult and embryonic cell types, it is dangerous to assume the same divisions can be made for pluripotent cell types. The secrets of cells have no boundaries." - Scott, T.C., McCormick, J.B., DeRouen, M.C., & Owen-Smith, J.