WASHINGTON – For the first time, U.S. researchers have cloned embryonic stem cells from adult cells, a breakthrough on the path toward helping doctors treat a host of diseases.
The embryonic stem cells — which were created by fusing an adult skin cell with an egg cell that had been stripped of genetic material — were genetically identical to the donors.
The hope is that cloned embryonic stem cells, which are capable of transforming into any other type of cell in the body, could be used in patient-specific regenerative therapy to repair or replace an individual’s organs damaged by diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Funded in part by the South Korean government, a research team led by Robert Lanza of the firm Advanced Cell Technology used cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man.
One advantage of this approach is that it does not use fertilized embryos to obtain stem cells, a technique that raises major ethical issues because the embryo is destroyed.