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Therapeutic cloning breakthrough

  • Scientists create patient-specific cell lines from the skin cells of two adult men in a procedure called somatic cell nuclear transfer demonstrating that the technique can work for people of all ages. The embryonic cells are genetically identical to the donor and have profound therapeutic potential.
  • The cloning procedure is difficult, however. Only one in thirty-nine attempts was successful.
  • In therapeutic cloning, a jolt of electricity fuses a grown cell (e.g. skin cell) with an ovum whose DNA has been removed. After ~5 days of dividing and multiplying it develops into a hollow sphere-shaped embryo. The interior cells are pluripotent stem cells which can develop into many different kinds of cells. The goal is to coax them to develop into specialized cells for therapeutic purposes.
  • Complicating the ability to create patient-specific cell lines for millions of people are women's reticence over donating eggs, a sometimes painful process. Widespread donations may not be ultimately necessary since many people have genetically similar immune systems so 100 human embryonic stem cell lines would match over 50% of the U.S. population according to the co-author of the study, Dr. Robert Lanza.
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