Stem cell breakthrough might break logjam

Researchers in Boston say they have discovered how to manipulate new cell growth from nonembryonic cells, which might finally put an end to the rancorous debate over the use of embryonic stem cells in research seeking a cure for many diseases.

Wouldn’t that be something? Instead of angry protests of, “You’re killing innocent babies!,” the most plaintive reaction will be, “Ouch, you’re scraping my skin.” “Owie.”

I wanna be replicated.

Says the Washington Post: “The researchers published a series of experiments showing they can use laboratory-made versions of naturally occurring biological signals to quickly convert ordinary skin cells into cells that appear virtually identical to embryonic stem cells.”

This might be a Boston tea party everyone can agree on. Maybe.

Everything hangs, of course, on whether the preliminary findings live up to the potential. Then again, this could touch off all kinds of new controversies.

It’s the stuff of science fiction, making entire new pieces parts out of a few skin cells. Could it be possible to build an entire human being out of cloned cells? What if I grow tired of myself (huh, imagine that!) and decide I want a new start with a new body? A fresh start. Here, just scrape a few of my skin cells into a Petri dish and POOF! A new me!

Chew on that for a while.

We’re all fracked

Huh. CNN is just now paying attention to all the fracking going on around here.

What the frack?  It’s hydraulic fracturing, using high pressure water or steam with a few chemicals, maybe some sand to force pockets of natural gas out of underground deposits. We’ve written about this before.

The EPA apparently signed off on it a few years back, but now folks who live near these fracking wells say their water is combustible. Literally. They say it makes their homes smell like refineries.

The drillers shake their heads and cluck-cluck that it’s a mere coincidence. Really? The fracking technique forces gas out of pockets in the rock and ostensibly into collection vessels. But isn’t it equally possible (make that likely) that cracks and other imperfections in the rock allow gas and chemicals/water to leach into surrounding areas? After all, they are fracturing the rock. It’s supposed to let the gas out.

But-but-but natural gas is cleaner than other fossil fuels, defenders will stammer, and we depend on foreign oil too much — at least this is domestically produced– and it creates jobs right here in America. OK, valid buts, all.

But to add another but to the butt-heap, anyone who’s seen televised news over the last six months knows that drilling and collecting energy can be a dangerous and messy business.

So as usual, the solutions presented are a) keep drilling full speed ahead, those fumes are just in your imagination or b) Thou shalt not drill upon penalty of death. The EPA has set up urgent, high-level meetings to see what the frack is going on.

Maybe some really smart people can come up with a middle plan. You know, safer, but still gets the job done.