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MEDIA ADVISORY: 09.30.10 Bioethicist Available to Discuss Latest News on Pluripotent Stem Cells

(Garrison, NY) Scientists announced today that they had found a new way to reprogram skin cells into stem cells that is safer and more efficient than earlier methods. Josephine Johnston, a Hastings Center research scholar, can discuss the implications of the new technology, which was reported in the journal Cell Stem Cell. Johnston has written extensively about the stem cell controversy and is a member of the embryonic stem cell research oversight for Weill Cornell Medical College, Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Earlier techniques for converting adult cells into so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) carried the risk of introducing genetic mutations, possibly causing cancer. The new technique “completely eliminates” that risk, according to the study. Further, the new technique, called RNA reprogramming, “may produce higher quality iPSCs,” according to the report.

Johnston says that the new technique may eventually allow stem cell research to stop using human embryos altogether, which would all but eliminate moral controversy surrounding the research. In the meantime, however, research involving embryonic stem cells is still needed to validate the new cells. A commentary by Johnston on the legal challenge to federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research appears in the current issue of The Scientist.

Contact: Michael Turton, Communications Associate,, 845-424-4040 ext. 242