The tragic death of Robin Williams in August briefly caught the public imagination in our country. A uniquely gifted man died before his time because he was unable to cope with the depression that haunted him. Well-meaning supporters opined that Mr. Williams was now free at last. Others speculated about what must be wrong with our society that would drive someone like Mr. Williams to despair. While Robin Williams’ suicide dominated the news, there was another high-profile suicide that went virtually unnoticed in our country. Just six days before Williams’ death, Dr. Yoshiki Sasai, a world famous stem cell researcher from Japan, was found hanging in a stair well in the building in which he worked.
Earlier this year one of Dr. Sasai’s research associates made a revolutionary discovery regarding the reprogramming of common cells into cells with the properties of embryonic stem cells. The process of transforming cells is ordinarily done by genetic manipulation of the cells. The new discovery purported to show that the cells could be reprogrammed by simply manipulating the environment in which they grew, thus eliminating the need for altering the genetic composition of the cells. This advance would have moved the use of reprogrammed cells [...]