Big News For Stem Cell Research

bhaskar chanda cloningIt turns out this was a big month for stem cell research, for medical biophysics, and for science and humanity in general. In two separate journals, two separate groups of scientists published that they had used cloning technology to create stem cells that genetically match specific adult patients, and can be used to produce any cell type in those patients.

In nature, an embryo forms after a sperm cell fertilizes an egg. In these studies, scientists placed the nucleus of an adult skin cell inside the ovum and watched as the artificially reconstructed egg went through all the primary stages of embryonic development. Stem cells are useful because they can potentially develop into any type of body tissue, meaning they could be used to treat numerous diseases, syndromes, and injuries.

The approach was first suggested about twenty years ago by John Gearhart, who serves as director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Just last year, Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University published a groundbreaking report, announcing they had created coned embryos using skin cells from a fetus and a baby. The study was expanded upon this year by a group at the CHA Stem Cell Institute in South Korea led by Young Gie Chung, as well as a group at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute led by Dieter Egli. While the former used skin cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man, the latter used skin cells from a 32-year-old woman with Type 1 diabetes.

Congratulations to both teams! It’s an honor to be working in a field where brilliant problem solvers are making new discoveries every day, discoveries that promise to save and change lives.

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