Researchers have created a way of making human embryonic stem cell lines without having to destroy embryos. This breakthrough could jump the moral hurdle which has held many people back from supporting embryonic stem cell research.

The scientists, led Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technologies in Worcester, Massachusetts, carried out two separate procedures on mice. They are convinced the same can be done with humans.

You can read about this study in the journal Nature.

Lanza and his team blocked the action of the Cdx2 gene in preimplantation embryos (mice). This procedure stops the embryos from sticking to the wall of the uterus - it prevents the formation of the trophectoderm (a cell layer).

In another experiment, the scientists used preimplantation genetic diagnosis to derive mouse embryonic stem cell line. Only one cell was extracted from the embryo of a mouse, allowing the embryo to then implant into the uterus wall and develop normally. From this one cell extracted from the embryo, the scientists were than able to produce many stem cell lines.

This procedure, say the researchers, would allow children to be born and to grow up with perfectly matching stem cell supplies (for life). These stem cells could then help treat any illnesses they may develop. The cells, which could be frozen for storage, would be a perfect genetic match. The child could be effectively treated for a wide array of illnesses and conditions, from diabetes, heart disease to even baldness. This supply of stem cells would be available throughout the child's life.

Stem cells are cells which can develop into any type of cell the human body needs - they are master cells.

To date, there has been a great deal of opposition to embryonic stem cell research because it requires the destruction of an embryo. This new procedure does not destroy the embryo, it goes on to become a baby boy or girl.

: Christian
Editor: blog

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