According to BBC News, testing is currently underway for a treatment of stem cells that can be injected directly into the body and guided to damaged points via magnets and guiding magnetic nanoparticles in the blood stream. By injecting the magnetic nanoparticles into the stem cells, the researchers at Keele University are able to move the stem cells anywhere in the body, solving the problem of how to focus the regenerative aspects of the cells.
Essentially, this removes another block of the argument against stem cells – by removing the need for surgery, it cuts down on the risks involved in stem cell cures dramatically. Critical injuries that would require risky surgery to fix, even without the use of stem cells (examples include the addition of metal plates to hold together bone fractures) would now be nearly as simple to deal with as going in to the doctor for a vaccination. The nanoparticles used in the stem cells are already approved for use by the US for use in MRI scans, according to the article, so there can be no concerns about safety there. Hopefully, progress on to human trials will move swiftly and with success. (However, the scientific paper referenced by the BBC is as of yet unpublished. We shall see what unfolds with that in the future.)
It would seem the benefits of stem cells are only going up, as new breakthroughs in their research are cropping up all over the place, and the reasons not to use them are getting harder and harder to defend. Thus far, research has discovered ways to harvest stem cells from human skin, rendering the ethical embryo defense useless, and now we have discovered a way to easily make use of these stem cells in everyday medical use. All steam ahead in all areas, is what I say. Policy should be reflective of these breakthroughs, and hopefully Obama’s team can make a priority of it, after solving the economic crisis of course.