Researchers make human stem cells through cloning
Zee Media Bureau
New York: In a breakthrough, scientists have for the first time created human embryonic stem cells using the cloning technique that led to the birth of Dolly the sheep in 1996.
The scientific landmark represents a major turning point in human cloning research which could now lead to new tissue-transplant operations for a range of debilitating disorders, such as Parkinson`s disease, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and spinal cord injuries.
The result is a harvest of human embryonic stem cells, the seemingly magic cells capable of morphing into any of the 200-plus kinds that make up a person.
The feat, reported on Wednesday in the journal Cell, could re-ignite the field of stem-cell medicine, which has been hobbled by technical challenges as well as ethical issues.
Until now, the most natural sources of human stem cells have been human embryos, whose use in research poses ethical quandaries. The technique announced on Wednesday, by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center, uses unfertilized human eggs.
But the achievement could also revive fears of reproductive cloning, or producing genetic copies of living (or dead) individuals.
Even before the study was published, a British watchdog group called Human Genetics Alert protested the research.
"Scientists have finally delivered the baby that would-be human cloners have been waiting for: a method for reliably creating cloned human embryos," said Dr. David King, the group`s director. "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."
Among scientists, however, the accomplishment is being hailed as "a tour de force," as stem cell biologist George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute put it. "This represents an unparalleled achievement. They succeeded where many other groups failed, including mine."
The highest-profile failure was that of biologist Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University in South Korea. In 2005 he and his team made headlines across the globe when they claimed, in the journal Science, that they had created human embryonic stem cells via nuclear transfer, the same technique the Oregon scientists used. Hwang`s claim turned out to be a lie, making it one of the most infamous cases of scientific fraud in the last decade.
With Agency inputs