Blind World Magazine

Stem cells tailored to patients.

May 20, 2005.
BBC News.

South Korean scientists say they have made stem cells tailored to match the individual for the first time.

Each of the 11 new stem cell lines that they made was created by taking genetic material from the patient and putting it into a donated egg.

The resultant cells were a perfect match for the individual and could mean treatments for diseases like diabetes without problems of rejection.

The study, published in Science, has been hailed as a major advance.

Meanwhile, UK scientists at Newcastle University announced they had successfully produced a cloned embryo using donated eggs and genetic material from stem cells.

It really is an advance.

Professor Chris Higgins from the UK Medical Research Council

Although a long way behind the Korean research, it was the first time a human cloned embryo had been created in Britain.

Critics said these "cloning" techniques are unethical.


Experts warned that there was a risk the cells could become cancerous.

And the Korean team admits much work is needed before stem cell techniques can be perfected.

The stem cell lines produced by the Koreans from patients with disease will likely also display some of the characteristics of that disease.


1960s: Research begins on stem cells taken from adult tissue

1968: Adult stem cells used to treat immunodeficient patient

1998: US scientists grow stem cells from human embryos and germ cells, establishing cell lines still in use today

2001: Embryonic stem cell turned into a blood cell

2004: South Korean scientists clone 30 human embryos and develop them over several days

2005: Korean team develops stem cells tailored to match individual patients

In some cases, the cells might need to be manipulated before being used as a treatment, said Dr Gerald Schatten, from the University of Pittsburgh, US, who worked with the Seoul National University team.

Researchers will also need to develop ways to efficiently direct the growth of stem cells into stable cell types, said Professor Woo Suk Hwang and his colleagues who successfully cloned human embryos last year.

"Scientists must also find a way to remove the remaining animal components from the laboratory procedures," they said.

Currently, scientists use animal enzymes to isolate the cells needed for such research.

They also stressed that the technique should not be used to make genetically identical babies - called reproductive cloning.

The technique.

Stem cells are primitive "master" cells that can be programmed to become many kinds of tissue.

To make them patient-specific, the researchers took DNA from the skin cells of volunteers and put this genetic material into donated human eggs which had had their own genetic material removed.

These eggs were grown to a very early stage of embryo development, around six days, when they were still just small balls of cells. The scientists then extracted the stem cells.

Cloning for research purposes is profoundly unethical.

Julia Millington of the ProLife Alliance

When the researchers examined them in the laboratory, the stem cells appeared to be immunologically compatible to the individual who donated the DNA.

Professor Chris Higgins, from the UK Medical Research Council, said: "It really is an advance. It offers the possibility of stem cell therapies without rejection.

"Also, the scientists have improved their technique and reliability of stem cell transfer."

Professor Ian Wilmut, from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh and creator of Dolly the sheep, said: "These new observations make a very significant and important step forward toward the use of cells from cloned human embryos for research and therapy."

Roger Pedersen, Professor of Regenerative Medicine, University of Cambridge, said the work provided "ample evidence" for the feasibility of replacing the genome of a human egg with that of an adult body cell.

Story from BBC NEWS:


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