Skin stem cell breakthrough

Breakthrough as stem cells are produced from skin, not embryos

SCIENTISTS HAVE SUCCEEDED in genetically reprogramming human skin to create powerful stem cells, which could put an end to the need for embryonic cloning.

The reprogrammed cells have the potential to form any kind of human tissue, and the method doesn’t require the cloning or destruction of embryos, regarded as immoral by many religious groups.

‘Direct reprogramming’ would also get around the problem of shortage of human eggs and surplus embryos, which has previously held up research in to embryonic stem cells and therapeutic cloning.

It is hoped the new breakthrough will lead the way for treatment of conditions like paralysis, diabetes, liver failure and Parkinson’s. The technique woud allow scientists to take cells from patients with these conditions and grow them into ‘spare part’ tissue, which could be transplanted without fear of rejection by the body’s immune system, because the cells are genetically the patient’s own.

Dr Nigel Pringle, from University College London, said: ‘Now you can reprogramme, it removes the need for the present sources of stem cells: young embryos, aborted foetuses and foetal tissue.

‘The idea is to eventually be able to generate stems cells for a new liver or new brain tissue in a test tube from the actual person so there’s no rejection.’

The research was carried out by teams at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and Kyoto University and published in the journals Science and Cell.

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