SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UCSB Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering recently unveiled renovated lab space that allows them to expand their research in stem cells. Scientists at the lab say there is so much more to learn about stem cell research. But a relatively new method of obtaining stem cells, which isn't used at the lab just yet, could bring big changes to research and how people view it.
Dennis Clegg is the co-director of the center and says the work done at the lab could provide huge medical breakthroughs.
"We think stem cell research could have an effect on a number of awful diseases like macular degeneration, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease."
Stem cell research has long been shrouded in controversy because of the use of embryonic stem cells. But Clegg says there's a relatively new method that creates stem cells without embryos. Instead it uses skin cells.
"You can take a skin cell from a human or a mouse and by adding 3 or 4 genes, you can convert it to a stem cell."
Scientists say reprogrammed skin cell research is done much the same as embryonic stem cell research, except the cells can be taken straight from the patient.
"It's a little skin biopsy," says Clegg. "You might feel a little pinch. And you remove a couple hundred cells and that's enough."
And he said this new method could silence critics.
"The possibility is that these cells would eliminate the need for embryonic cells."
Until that day comes, Clegg finds comfort in knowing that his research team is working to help people.
"If you can do research that would help people from suffering, it would be immoral not to do the research."
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