El oscurantismo de las células madre

El 19 de mayo, un grupo de científicos coreanos publicaron en la revista Science los resultados de una investigación que por primera vez aisló líneas de células madre embrionarias adaptadas específicamente para igualar el ADN de pacientes hombres y mujeres de diferentes edades. Al día siguiente, científicos británicos de la Universidad de Newcastle anunciaron que habían producido con éxito un embrión humano clonado utilizando óvulos donados y material genético obtenido de células madre.

Ambos resultados constituyen avances enormes en la investigación sobre las células madre. Las células madre embrionarias son pluripotentes, es decir que tienen la capacidad de convertirse en cualquier tipo de tejido humano. Esto conlleva grandes promesas, en particular para quienes sufren de lesiones y enfermedades de la médula espinal. Años de estudios y la súplicas apasionadas de pacientes de todo el mundo finalmente están allanando el camino para una técnica --la transferencia nuclear celular somática, también conocida como "clonación terapéutica"-- que podría traer cambios trascendentales para la salud de todos nosotros.

El momento en que se dio el anuncio no es menos notable que los últimos descubrimientos: en la víspera de una votación en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos para ampliar el financiamiento federal para las investigaciones sobre células madre embrionarias creadas durante la fertilización in vitro (pero nunca implantadas en una matriz). Ambos anuncios se dieron también un mes antes del referéndum en Italia --la mayor consulta popular sobre el tema jamás celebrada en cualquier lugar-- que busca cambiar una ley adoptada el año pasado que prohíbe tanto la fertilización en vitro como la investigación sobre células madre.

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