USA TODAY –The production of embryonic stem cells from cloned embryos is the scientific first achievement of the international research team. Pushing further the possibilities to generate replacement tissues for affected patients.
The potential to have the starter cells, embryonic stem cells grow into almost any tissue type (that is from blood to bone to brain), is possible. For the last 15 years, they have been seen as a potential source of rejection-free transplant tissues for conditions including diabetes to paralysis. Aside from that, the utilization of human embryos in research during the Bush administration was the subject of a fierce political fight against medical ethics. This is due to the embryonic cells retrieval process that involves the utilization of embryos.
Shoukhrat Mitalipov, head of the cell cloning study released by the journal Cell, Oregon Health & Science University in Beaverton said “We have now refined the steps to come up with a process of generating these cells that is pretty efficient.” Adding, “There is no one trick to making this work. It is like winning the lottery, all the numbers have to line up the right way to win.”
There have been a number of steps, reported by the study team, which were perfected in monkeys that allowed them to take those eggs donated by women volunteers. They too have successfully implanted into the eggs the chromosomes taken from skin cells of other people. There were three different people who donated skin cells (and among them has Leigh syndrome, a genetic disorder) which produced genetic copies or clones.
There has been a report coming from Mitalipov and his privately funded team concerning the growth of these cloned embryos that have reached past an eight-cell size into a full-blown early embryo with which hundreds of embryonic stem cells are contained; compared to the earlier attempts that stopped. The first cloned human embryonic stem cells successfully grown were noted to have grown into six colonies of cells. During the process however of cell collection, embryos were used.
More specialized skin and heart cells are products of successfully induced cells. This will lead to the future step in having cells utilized in “regenerative” medicine. This is where diseases and injuries like paralysis can be treated through considering cell cloning from a patient.
According to Paul Knoepfler, stem cell researcher of the University of California, Davis “For stem cell biology, there will be history before this result and then history after it with the study as the dividing line.” Adding that “No doubt this is a real milestone.”
Genetic copies of cells that are of the sick patients have been created through the usage of the cloning techniques that the researchers sought since the first isolated embryonic stem cells from human embryo done by the University of Wisconsin team in 1998. And since “Dolly the Sheep” in 1996 cloning, same cloning techniques have been used. This include placing a new set of genes into a hollowed-out egg then kick-start the combination to start dividing and then will eventually turn to become an embryo. It is through this process, where surrogate mother will have to carry the implanted embryos instead of having them destroyed to harvest stem cells, that creating genetic copies of same replica (twins) of even those extinct wild goat and prize bulls is possible.
There could even be chances, according to Knoepfler, for outside USA fertility clinic operators to have the team’s strategy replicated so as to have human baby cloned. “The embryos we produce this way did not lead to pregnancy in monkeys” claimed Mitalipov as he explained that their technique didn’t lead to the creation of a cloned embryo that can be possible implanted into the womb of a surrogate mother to cause pregnancy. “WE think there is something in the manipulations to make them that make a successful pregnancy impossible”, he added.
However, with the introduction of “induced” stem cells, which are grown through gene alterations to regular cells in order to result to embryonic stem cells’ near-copies, this once popular embryonic stem cell topic since 2007 has be set aside. And up until this time, growing cell lines coming from cloned human embryos have showed repeated failures (such as that one famous case, outright academic fraud done by a researcher in South Korea.)
And according to Knoepfler, the announcement has caused curiosity as to which among the produced induced stem cells and cloned cells produce the safely grown transplant tissues. There actually are hundreds of researchers that work on induced stem cells in order to come up with ways to have them grow into possible transplant tissues at some point. And in order to have eye disease treated, two clinical trials that utilizes retinal cell grown from embryonic stem cells are underway. However, patient’s cells weren’t used as the materials in having the cells in those pilot trials clone copied.
According to bioethicist Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, The Food and Drug Administration has made ways for halt less serious alterations to eggs in US fertility clinics compared to the cloning techniques. It could become nationally permitted to have a baby cloned this way.
But Richard Doerglinger of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said, “This study shows that human cloning can be done.” And adding, “The more important debate is whether it should be done.”
He also quoted saying, “If these cells are the answer, then what was the question” as he points to induced stem cells advances which was created minus the controversy.
There however are points emphasized by Mitalipov related to genetic abnormalities which can’t be found in embryonic stem cells but are present in induced stem cells. He said “We would like to see other labs confirm our work as well” referring to the already approved embryonic-derived cells clinical trials that set an ease of access to them to have patients tested –which are seen to be the reasons why induced stem cells aren’t found as more useful to patients than that compared of the cloned cells.