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Cloned embryo stem cell lines from patients

22 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 309

The Korean team that created the first embryonic stem cell (ES cell) line from a cloned human embryo has now announced the creation of 11 new cell lines, this time from patients affected by disease or spinal injury. Woo Suk Hwang and his colleagues at Seoul National University have increased the efficiency of their technique more than ten-fold. The research, published early online in Science last week, has been hailed as a major advance towards developing new stem cell treatments for a range of diseases.

Many scientists believe that ES cells - the body's master cells that can grow into almost any type of body tissue - hold the key to new therapies for diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease, as well as spinal cord injuries. So-called 'therapeutic cloning' research aims to derive patient-specific ES cell lines, both to study the disease process and possibly to develop tissue-matched, cell-based treatments. It involves replacing the genetic material of an unfertilised egg with that of a body cell, and then using a chemical trigger to make the resulting cell divide and multiply.)}Last year, the Korean team reported that they had created one cloned ES cell line from 30 cloned embryos, after more than 200 tries. This time, the scientists managed to create 11 cell lines from 31 cloned embryos, using just 185 eggs - an improvement which they say is partly down to using fresh eggs from young, fertile women, rather than eggs left over from fertility treatment. The women who donated their eggs for the study signed informed consent agreements, and were not paid. The team made the ES cell lines using skin cells from nine patients with spinal injuries, a two-year-old boy with a genetic immune disorder and a six-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes. However, Hwang stresses that his team are still years away from clinical trials, saying that 'we have to be over-convinced' that the cells are safe'.

Team member Gerald Schatten, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said: 'This is an enormous stride in the long journey to determine whether nuclear transfer-derived human embryonic stem cells might be eventually suitable for transplantation medicine'. The announcement will influence ongoing debates in many countries that are considering legislation in this controversial area of science. In the US, pressure is mounting on President Bush to reverse his policy on human ES cells, which bans federally funded researchers from creating new cell lines of this sort. And in Australia, there have been calls to overturn the current ban on therapeutic cloning research, enforced by a law passed in 2002.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Advance heralds 'personalised medicine'
The Guardian |  20 May 2005
Cloned human embryos deliver tailored stem cells
New Scientist |  19 May 2005
Cloning of Human Stem Cells Speeds Up
Science |  19 May 2005
Patient-Specific Embryonic Stem Cells Derived from Human SCNT Blastocysts
Science |  19 May 2005
Stem cell breakthrough puts pressure on ban
Sydney Morning Herald |  21 May 2005
Stem cells made to order
Wired |  19 May 2005
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