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article imageBreakthrough: Cloning human skin cell to produce embryonic cells

By Eko Armunanto     May 15, 2013 in Science
Scientists have for the first time produced human embryonic stem cells from adult cells through a cloning process, an experiment that may revive the controversy over human cloning.
Scientists showed for the first time that it is possible to create cloned embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the person from whom they are derived. This latest scientific breakthrough is however not to generate human clones but to produce lines of embryonic stem cells, says Professor Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D from Oregon Health & Science University who conduct the research. These can develop into muscle, nerve, or other cells that make up the body’s tissues. The process, he says, took only a few months, a surprisingly short period to reach such an important milestone. The research, published today in the journal Cell, marks a significant step forward in the use of stem cells to treat disease.
The long-sought advance, which has the potential to make stem cell therapies safer and less prone to rejection, has been the goal of many stem cell researchers for years that could have the capability to drive the next stage of development in human stem cell therapies capable of treating a vast range of diseases. Stem cells are one of the great hopes for medicine. Being able to create new tissue might be able to heal the damage caused by a heart attack or repair a severed spinal cord. "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," says the Professor.
Cited by BBC, Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, said this looked like “the real deal”.
“They've done the same as the Wright brothers really. They've looked around at where are all the best bits of how to do this from different groups all over the place and basically amalgamated it.”
Time's Alice Park said that ever since Ian Wilmut, an unassuming embryologist working at the Roslin Institute just outside of Edinburgh stunned the world by cloning the first mammal, Dolly, scientists have been asking whether humans could be cloned in the same way or not. Putting aside the ethical challenges the question raised, the query turned out to involve more wishful thinking than scientific success. Despite the fact that dozens of other species have been cloned using the technique, called nuclear transfer, human cells have remained stubbornly resistant to the process.
Paul A. De Sousa Ph. D, Senior Research Fellow Centre for Regenerative Medicine College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine University of Edinburgh, said the breakthrough means a technique that was once considered impractical could now be used to generate plentiful supplies of human embryonic stem cells for future transplant operations.
“They have shown it to be a very efficient procedure based on a relatively small number of eggs. It indicates that the procedure is clinically transferable. It's an important step,” De Sousa said.
From the ethical perspective, Dr David King from Human Genetics Alert warned, “Scientists have finally delivered the baby that would-be human cloners have been waiting for: a method for reliably creating cloned human embryos.”
“This makes it imperative that we create an international legal ban on human cloning before any more research like this takes place. It is irresponsible in the extreme to have published this research,” Dr King said – while advocates of the new technique say that the embryos created from this technique could never become viable human beings.
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