Stem Cell Breakthrough, as Scientists Clone Skin Cells

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Scientists have successfully changed skin cells into embryonic stem cells, marking the first time human stem cells were cloned by transferring the nucleus of another cell.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) were able to create embryonic stem cells, which are valuable for research because they can be turned into any other cell type found in the body. Stem cells provide a way for scientists to look into replacing cells damaged through injury or illness or give them a way to treat different conditions through stem cell therapy.

“A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells. Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection,” Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a senior scientist at ONPRC, said in a press release. “While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine.”

The research was published online in Cell on May 15.

The researchers employed a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), where the nucleus of a skin cell — the part of a cell that contains DNA — is implanted into an egg cell that has had all of its genetic material scraped out. What’s left is an unfertilized egg cell (with a skin cell nucleus), which then produces stem cells that can develop into many different types of cells found in the body.

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