Human stem cells were cloned from adult human skin cells by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), according to a study published in the scientific journal Cell today.
According to a press release, OHSU scientists removed the DNA from donated egg cells and replaced it with DNA from an adult’s skin cells.
The researchers hoped that the stem cells would grow in the cloned embryo and would be a match for the skin cell donor. This process could help doctors perform reconstructive surgery on the skin donor.
Lead researcher Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipo said that the stem cells (that grew in the embryo) were able to change “into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells."
Dr. Mitalipov told NPR that to get the stem cells growing, researchers use some electricity and a small amount of caffeine.
“Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection,” said Dr. Mitalipov.
“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.”
"This is a huge scientific advance," said Dr. George Daley, of Harvard, who was not involved in the study. "But it's going to, I think, raise the specter of [embryo stem cell research] controversy again."