|THE LIVING CELL|
A look at the world of the cell
with Boyce Rensberger
May 16, 1997
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in this forum:
Are cancer cells "anarchists" in the body "republic?" Will human organs ever be genetically engineered? What makes humans different from chimpanzees? Will cloning lead to the lose of human individuality? Why hasn't the abortion debate included new information on how human life develops? Where will the most exciting advances in biology come from in the next century?
David Gergen discusses the cellular world with Boyce Rensberger, author of "Life Itself: Exploring The Realm of the Living Cell."
April 24, 1997:
Charlayne Hunter-Gault talks with the doctor who helped a 63-year-old woman become a mother.
March 5, 1997:
The annoucement of Dolly, the cloned sheep, was stunning, but what does cloning mean for society?
February 24, 1997:
Analysis of the revelation that Scottish scientists had cloned a sheep.
January 1, 1997:
Paul Solman reviews the year in genetics.
Browse the NewsHour's index of science coverage.
Sonnie G. Cuffey of Suffolk, VA, asks:
When, if ever, will human body organs be genetically engineered?
Boyce Rensberger responds:
Depends what you mean.
Doctors have already inserted new genes into human patients' bone marrow cells (marrow makes blood cells), so as to give the cells new powers--usually to make a protein that the patient could not make because it had a defective gene. This is so-called gene therapy, which is still quite experimental, but does seem to work to a limited extent. Many different diseases (but usually only those resulting from a defect in a single gene) are being studied for treatment this way.
If, instead, you're asking when human organs might be grown, or engineered, in the laboratory for transplant into a patient, that's a very different line of research. But it, too, is underway and beginning to show promise. People are working, for example, on growing human skin in the laboratory for use in transplants. They can actually make skin cells produce the different layers that make up normal skin. Efforts are underway to generate other organs this way too.
Either way, I would guess that these approaches will become routinely available for certain kinds of conditions in, oh, say, maybe five to ten years.
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