Saturday, June 10, 2006

Human SCNT at Harvard

Harvard researchers said Tuesday, June 6, 2006, they have begun an effort to combine egg cells donated by women with the genetic material of mature cells from adults to create human embryos in a dish.

The cloning procedure being attempted at Harvard [and at UCSF] is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer [SCNT] and has been accomplished in numerous animals, but not so far in humans [Newcastle created a cloned blastocyst, but not a cell line]. Scientists take a piece of skin from a patient, isolate a cell and remove its nucleus. They then insert that nucleus into an egg cell whose original nucleus has been removed. The resulting embryo is an exact genetic match of the patient.

Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, said: “While we respect the beliefs of those who oppose this research, we are equally sincere in our belief that the life-and-death medical needs of suffering children and adults justify moving forward with this research.”

The research will be led by the scientists Douglas Melton, Thomas Dudley, Kevin Eggan and George Daley and will focus on diabetes, motor neuron disease and blood disorders.

The initial goal is to take nuclei from adult cells belonging to patients with these diseases, and to transplant them into eggs from which DNA has been removed.

[See here]

The work will be conducted by two groups: one led by Douglas Melton, Co-Director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and a Harvard professor, and the other led by George Daley at the Children's Hospital in Boston, who is also an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School.

Melton's team will focus on diabetes-targeting stem cell lines, and then shift to neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Daley's group will focus on blood disorders.

University leaders said they had carefully considered the ethical debates around stem cell study before approving the project.

Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, called the approvals "a seminal event in the University's effort to advance this tremendously promising area of science."

Steven Hyman, provost of the University, said the work had been the subject of "more than two years of thoughtful, intensive review by as many as eight different Institutional Review Boards and Stem Cell oversight committees at five different institutions."

[See here ]


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