Two independent groups of scientists have devised ways to isolate embryonic stem cells from mice without destroying viable embryos. These new methods are intended to satisfy the ethical concerns of people who oppose destroying human embryos to do research or treat disease.
Unlike any cell known in adults, embryonic stem cells can morph into virtually any of the body's cell types, such as nerve, muscle, or heart. Many researchers have proposed exploiting this unique capability to make new cells for the treatment of injuries or diseases such as Parkinson's disease (SN: 4/2/05, p. 218: Full Stem Ahead). However, to isolate a new line of embryonic stem cells, scientists have had to first destroy an early embryo.
"Many people, including the President, are concerned about destroying life in order to save life," says Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass.