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Cloning technique produces human stem cells for the first time

May 15, 2013
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Source: NBC

Researchers say they have finally managed to use cloning technology to make human embryos and grow stem cells from them in the hopes of making perfectly matched grow-your-own tissue transplants.

They used a human egg cell and parts of a human skin cell to grow a very early human embryo, then transformed cells from this ball of cells into beating heart cells and skin cells. The process may eventually help treat a range of diseases, from Parkinson’s to rare inherited conditions, they reported Wednesday in the journal Cell.

The researchers, at Oregon Health & Science University, say their embryos almost certainly could not grow into living human babies or even start a pregnancy – they’re deficient in a key way. But they admit also that they haven’t quite overcome ethical qualms about working with human embryos.However, the work opens another route to treatments using human embryonic stem cells, the body’s master cells. “These stem cells are kind of very early unprogrammed cells but they have the capacity to become any other cell type,” says Shoukhrat Mitalipov, who led the research.

These cells are very different from so-called adult stem cells, like those taken from bone marrow. Adult stem cells cannot give rise to cells of other tissue types -- blood cells cannot be used to make brain cells, for instance.

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Oregon Health & Science University

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have successfully developed a method for converting human skin cells into embryonic stem cells.

Other groups have learned how to “trick” ordinary skin cells into re-modeling themselves into different tissues. These so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, iPS cells for short, might also some day be used to grow transplants perfectly matched to a patient. But again, the technique isn’t easy and there have been many stumbling blocks.

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