Cloning produces stem cells from adult skin

Research could enable medical advances such as replacement organs

Human cloning to produce stem cells works even with cells from middle-aged or elderly people, scientists report in the June 5 Cell Stem Cell, which appeared online April 17.

Last year, scientists described a cloning technique for reprogramming human cells to make stem cells. That technique, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, fused mature cells from an infant to egg cells that had had their DNA-containing nuclei removed (SN: 6/15/13, p. 5).

In the new work, researchers used the same technique to reprogram skin cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man. The achievement could pave the way for growing replacement cells or organs, which aging adults are more likely to need than infants, say Young Gie Chung of CHA Health System’s Research Institute for Stem Cell Research in Los Angeles and CHA University in Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues.

Human cloning is controversial because it creates an embryo that could theoretically grow into a fetus if implanted in a uterus. Some opponents of the technology say that destroying such an embryo to harvest stem cells is akin to taking a life. Other people support cloning for therapeutic purposes, but draw the line at using the technique to make an actual human clone.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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