Wired magazine is reporting that scientists have now been successful at turning human skin cells into an undifferentiated mass of cells called a blastema that is the first step toward regrowing limbs. Now Worcester Polytechnic Institute has been given a DARPA grant to develop the blastema into muscle tissue. It’s a very interesting development that has applications not only in military medicine, but also in the larger medical community. It’s also worth noting that this development arose from adult cells, perhaps creating an avenue around ethical complications from using embryonic stem cells.
Don’t ask me why, but I have a weakness for reading comments on news articles, even though they’ll undoubtedly make me tear my hair out. This one was no different, I guess because the Pentagon is funding the research. The first poster made the comment, “Next time don’t go in to an “occupation” half-assed so you end up with 10,000 guys with limbs blown off.” The thread was immediately hijacked from that point on, with commenters calling soldiers “brick-ass stupid” for joining, that anyone supporting them is being duped by “superman” propaganda, that 9/11 was the best thing that happened to this country, and that we obviously need a draft.
I thought Wired readers were a more intelligent bunch, but I guess I was wrong. I don’t see why an article about the potential for regrowing limbs should immediately elicit such a vehement attack against something that really has little to do with the article’s subject matter. I guess we’ve all been way too politicized, where not even promising medical news is free from the wrath of ideology. It’s too bad.