Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic
I read the news of a breakthrough in stem cell research yesterday, and couldn't help but wonder if we're one step away from a cure for Alzheimer's, or M.S., or Parkinson's. No, we're not quite there yet.... Scientists did find a way to make ordinary skin cells act just like stem cells, though. And that means no embryos are harmed in the making of those stem cells. With an intense ongoing debate over ethics and harvesting human embryos for stem cells, the more immediate effect of this breakthrough might be political. New embryonic stem cell lines don't get federal funding. If these new skin cell-derived stem cells live up to expectations, scientists who study them would likely qualify for federal money. Still, this is more of a breakthrough for research than practical applications. And my question still stands: How does this find advance stem cell research into diseases and cures? Science correspondent Joe Palca will take time out before the holiday to help us understand what all this means in scientific, political, and practical terms.