Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Stem Cell First: Using the 'Dolly' Method on Human Cells

The New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory found success in their latest study on using a cloning technique to generate stem cells. Similar to the technique that created the famed Dolly, they used human adult cells to provide a mechanism in which to generate the stem cells. The article posted by Time Magazine states that not only is this a step forward towards stem cell therapy, but it also is a step closer towards human cloning.

This team of scientists began using a technique called SCNT, somatic cell nuclear transfer, which consists of removing the nucleus from an egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus of another cell to be replicated. SCNT is somewhat flawed when working with human cells, so the scientists of New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory tweaked the process by combining DNA from both cells, which resulted in a successful growth of stem cells. They used human egg cells and added DNA from skin cells to them. The result was that 13 out of the 270 egg cells were able to develop into blastocysts (a structure that is formed in the early in the process of which an embryogenesis of mammals) and 2 stem cell lines were effectively extracted from those. These stem cells contained a full set of chromosomes from the skin cell and half a set from the egg, as egg cells are gametes.

The problem with this study is that the stem cells produced contained extra chromosomes (because of the combination of DNA from both cells). Therefore, the next step is to find out how to remove the egg genome without disturbing the development. These scientists are thinking of using other types of mature cells rather than skin cells. Another theory they have is that they can regress the adult egg cell back to an embryonic state to prevent the combination of genetic material between the two cells. Overall, there are still problems with the ethics of stem cell research, so it is hard for these researchers to get sufficient funding to be able to carry out these impressive scientific landmarks.

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