US researchers harvest stem cells from cloned embryos for the first time
US scientists have claimed that they have harvested stem cells from cloned human embryos created from donated eggs using technique similar to that produced Dolly the sheep in Britain. This breakthrough could lead to new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.
The task ahead for the scientists is to compare the embryo-cloning approach with another technology that reprogrammed blood or skin cells directly into substitutes for embryonic stem cells.
Limitations of Cell-Reprogramming approach
The cell reprogramming approach was widely acclaimed when reported in 2007 and it also won it Japanese developer a Nobel Prize. It is technically simpler and does not involve embryos or require the donation of human eggs. But these substitute cells show some molecular differences compared to embryonic ones, which has led to questions about whether they can safely be used for treating patients.
What is the advantage of the new technique?
The new technique has a particular advantage for treating patients with certain types of rare diseases. These are caused by mutations in genes of the mitochondria, the power plants of cells. The new technique, unlike the cell-reprogramming approach, would supply tissue with new mitochondrial genes that could replace defective ones. Those new genes would come from the egg.
Opposition to Cloning
The research associated with cloning is facing stiff opposition from religious groups who call cloning, particularly human cloning, unethical and are demanding a ban on it.