A Biological Sciences professor at the University of Missouri says some sources for stem cells are being studied that might replace the need to develop embryonic stem cells.

Professor Mark Kirk says many members of the public still have questions and concerns about where stem cells come from, how they are used and whether human cloning is taking place. While some animals like Dolly the Sheep have been cloned, Kirk says humans are much more complicated and cloning them is extremely difficult. A couple of private companies have conducted cellular cloning, however.

Research continues to take adult cells, such as skin cells, and as Kirk describes it, “turn back the clock” and make them like embryonic cells. By introducing certain genes into such a cell, it can be effectively reprogrammed so that “pluripotent” cells (that can be differentiated to multiple uses) can be obtained. This could lead to developing embryonic stem cells for patients. He believes those efforts will be successful.

Many groups and individuals express concerns over embryonic stem cells being derived from terminated embryos. Kirk says using induced pluripotent stem cells might be less controversial. He acknowledges, however, some will continue to object regardless of new developments.

The Professor recently participated in MU’s series of Saturday Morning Science talks on the subject of stem cell research and advancements.