Revolutionary advancements in stem cell research

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Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University have successfully created human embryonic cells using cloning technology. The goal of this development is to one day use these cells to produce replacement tissues or organs to treat disease due to the fact that embryonic stem cells can be developed into any type of cell in the body.

In order to create the stem cells, the researchers used skin cells from an 8-month old baby with a genetic disease and combined them with human eggs to develop a human embryo. The stem cells were then taken from the embryo. The advantage that these stem cells have over stem cells that have been used in the past is that the method used by these researchers produces stem cells that are genetically identical to the patient. Past methods have created human embryonic cells using embryos produced in fertilization clinics, but these stem cells are not genetically identical to the patient, and steps must be taken to ensure the individual will not reject them.

This advancement has been met with much resistance, especially from religious groups. The Conference of Catholic Bishops believes that the purpose of this procedure is to clone a human being, a practice they feel is immoral, because it treats human beings as products, manufactured to order to suit other people s wishes. However, the Oregon researchers clearly state that their intent is to make embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to a particular patient.

And ACSH is completely behind these advancements. ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross comments: This development has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we treat not only genetic diseases, but a wide range of potentially treatable conditions requiring replacement of degenerated tissues or organs irreversibly damaged by toxins or cancer. This breakthrough is the holy grail of stem cell research, albeit in its very early stages. The Oregon group should be congratulated.

But this isn t the only new development being made in terms of stem cells. Researchers from Children s Hospital of Philadelphia s Research Institute and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered a new way to ensure survival of neural stem cells injected into the brain. They used a method in which they were able to mark a specific carbohydrate, CD15, which plays a role in cell maintenance and differentiation. Donor cells that contained this carbohydrate were more likely to survive when injected into an adult brain, an important discovery that may one day be used in treating neurological disorders.