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Stem Cell Gain: Bone marrow cells seem to have what it takes

The ongoing effort to find an adult stem cell that can morph into most, if not all, types of tissues has received a boost. Tests show that a rodent bone marrow cell similar to one found in people acts as a multipurpose stem cell, much as embryonic stem cells do.

The work, which appears in the June 23 Nature, suggests that the human version also has the potential to grow into many types of tissue. This quality could be of immense value in fighting diseases that arise from congenital defects or degeneration of organs, says study coauthor Catherine M. Verfaillie, a physician and hematologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School–Minneapolis.

Stem cells from human embryos can divide for indefinite periods and give rise to a vast array of specialized cells. However, difficult ethical issues arise because taking the cells destroys the embryos.

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