Monday, June 05, 2006

Stem cell flashback: 12 Feb. 2004

From CellNews, using a press release of AAAS:

South Korean and US researchers on Wednesday [11 Feb. 2004] said, at the 2004 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle (12-16 Feb.), they had cloned a human embryo and extracted from it embryonic stem cells. [IPBiz note: the US connection was Dr. Jose Cibelli, formerly of Advanced Cell Technology and now a researcher at Michigan State University in the US.]

The experiment, the first published report of cloned human stem cells, means so-called therapeutic cloning is now a reality.

The team says it sought approval for its work from an ethical review board and obtained informed consent from its women donors before proceeding with the work.

Hwang and colleagues developed the stem cell line, SCNT-hES-1, after collecting 242 eggs from 16 unpaid volunteers who had signed informed-consent agreements. From these eggs, scientists then cultured 30 blastocysts to obtain 20 suitable inner cell masses.

Interestingly, the research team harvested eggs as well as somatic cells from the same donors. Nuclear material from the somatic cell was transferred into the nucleus-free or enucleated egg of the same woman. This unusual experimental design may be more effective than person-to-person transfers may, because it offered greater compatibility between the genetic components that were fused together.

But the question then arise if the stem cells truly were derived from the transferred nucleus, or if they were the result of an accidental "parthenote" — an artificially induced blastocyst resulting from an egg that began to spontaneously divide.

To support their claim that the resulting stem cells came from the transplanted nucleus, Hwang's team completed DNA fingerprinting analysis, and also checked the expression of imprinted genes. The results were consistent with stem cells resulting from transplantation.

"It is a very impressive study. It obviously represents a major medical milestone," said Dr. Robert Lanza, who has helped lead cloning experiments at Advanced Cell Technology.

"He's got the cookbook now. It's scary. We really need to move as soon as possible," Lanza said.

For most people, belief in the work of Hwang Woo Suk, reported at the AAAS meeting in 2004 and in Science in 2004, ended in January 2006. It was sad to see that the BBC included these milestones in a report in June 2006. The report of the BBC was in
the context of a visit by 3 US Congresspeople to Great Britain, and attempted to "shame" the US federal government into allocating more funding for embryonic stem cells. Whatever decision the US federal government should make ought to be based on an accurate depiction of reality. Curiously, the BBC neglected to include as a milestone the first human blastocyst obtained through SCNT, perhaps because the lead researcher in that program left Great Britain for Spain [?]


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