Scientists from South Korea have devised a technique for cloning adult stem cells that doesn't involve the destruction of human embryos. The resulting stem cells, which are highly personalized, could be used to treat illnesses such as heart disease and blindness — but the technique could also be used to clone adults.
It's a process called therapeutic cloning and it involves the production of embryonic cells that are genetically identical to those of the donor, typically for the purpose of using the resulting pluripotent cells to treat disease. The scientists, whose study now appears in Cell, extracted skin cells from two adult males, aged 35 and 75. The DNA was then fused with human eggs donated by four adult women.
A burst of electricity was used to fuse grown cells with eggs whose own DNA had been removed. The eggs then multiplied and soon developed into embryos in the shape of a hollow sphere. This resulted in pluripotent cells — cells that can turn into any kind of human cell.
Last year, scientists essentially did the same thing, though the cells were derived from human fetal and infant DNA (which tend to be more malleable). This technique is considered much more ethically palatable because it does not involve the destruction of human embryos.
As noted, and in addition to creating personalized stem cells to treat such conditions as Parkinson's disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis or type-1 diabetes, the technique could be used to clone human adults.
Read the entire study at Cell: "Human Embryonic Stem Cells Derived by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer." Additional sources: NBC and Reuters.