The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Genetics expert speaks about new findings

By Brittany Dickey/reporter

With new discoveries in genetics, cancer can be cured in four years, a genetic expert told NE students last week.

During the Genetics Update Conference Feb. 10 on NE Campus, Sam Rhine, a genetic educator and speaker, said the new findings in the genetic field will eventually lead to the prevention of cancer and other fatal diseases.

“In four years, we can cure leukemia with antibodies that prevent CD47,” he said.

Rhine said CD47 allows early leukemia cells not to be destroyed by the immune system. Rhine said CD47 sends out the “don’t eat me” message. Finding a way to destroy that message stops leukemia before it really starts to destroy the body.

Rhine has a master’s degree in genetics from Indiana University and also attended Harvard Medical School. He tours the country informing biology students and teachers on new genetic advancements.

Rhine said stem cell research is controversial. Moral and ethical beliefs differ, and no one can decide which belief is correct or if there is a correct one at all.

“Who among us has the wisdom to make this determination? I don’t,” he said.

Rather than determining, Rhine sought to help the audience understand why he believes stem cell research is vital to the advancement of medicine. Rhine said before the audience members decided their stance, he wanted them to be science-literate and to understand what stem cell research is.

Stem cell research, Rhine said, is the exploration of adult cells that sprout from the “stem” of the embryo.

“We took the name from a plant,” he said.

Stem cell research comes from an embryo or fertilized egg. Once the cells are taken from this egg, they can be fostered in a lab and live forever. The nucleus of another person can be put into the egg and create that individual. Thus an individual’s cells are being recreated. This process is called therapeutic stem cell research, which can cure things like Type I diabetes.

“Type I diabetes is dear to my heart,” he said. ”My son had Type I diabetes.”

Drug therapy screening can also be done to see what medicines work to cure certain diseases, Rhine said.

Because the embryo is taken out of the womb, the embryo does not grow after the research is over. Rhine said some people view this practice as killing the unborn baby.

After the Bush administration decided in 2001 that no federal money would be given to research that involved destroying a human embryo, scientists had to find a way to receive stem cells without the embryo, Rhine said.

In 2007, Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, physician and researcher, discovered a way to use skin grafts to produce stem cells.

He did this by reprogramming or reversing the signals of the skin graft.

“This is the greatest advancement ever in the history of stem cell technology,” he said.

After Rhine finished his lecture on stem cell research, he asked the audience, “What’s your stance?”

Tien Phan, a NE Campus student, found the presentation enlightening.

“This is an eye-opener for me,” he said.

Faculty also appreciated the presentation.

“He does a great job explaining on different levels,” said Claudia Cash, NE Campus biology instructor. “His point of scientific literacy was the most important factor.”

Rhine said he was not trying to persuade the audience one way or the other but wanted to give the information and allow the audience to make an educated decision.

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