August 22, 2005
More on stem cells
Science—unlike religion—is all about progress:
Scientists for the first time have turned ordinary skin cells into what appear to be embryonic stem cells – without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, as has always been required in the past, a Harvard research team announced yesterday.
The technique uses laboratory-grown human embryonic stem cells – such as the ones that President Bush has already approved for use by federally funded researchers – to “reprogram” the genes in a person’s skin cell, turning that skin cell into an embryonic stem cell itself.
The approach – details of which are to be published this week in the journal Science but were made public on the journal’s Web site yesterday – is still in an early stage of development. But if further studies confirm its usefulness, it could offer an end run around the heated social and religious debate that has for years overshadowed the field of human embryonic stem cell research.
… While that cell has all the characteristics of a new embryonic stem cell, it contains the DNA of the person who donated the skin cell and also the DNA that was in the initial embryonic stem cell.
At some point before these hybrid cells are coaxed to grow into replacement parts to be transplanted into a person, that extra DNA must be extracted, the researchers write.
The team describes this task as a “substantial technical barrier” to the clinical use of stem cells made by the new technique.
Although as the Post points out, a number of other research teams are already making progress removing DNA from hybrid cells.
More stem-cell news here.
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