Stem cells without using embryos

Two teams of scientists reported on November 20, 2007 that they had been successful in turning human skin cells into embryonic stem cells.

Both teams used a process of adding four genes to skin cells, which reprogrammed their chromosomes, converting them into blank slates that should be able to turn into any of the 220 cell types of the human body.  This incredible breakthrough could essentially negate the ethically debated need for the creation or destruction of an embryo for the extraction of stem cells.  Although both teams, one in Wisconsin and the other in Japan, agree that there are still potential risks using this new method, stem cell researchers say they are confident that it will not take long to perfect the method and that current drawbacks are temporary.

In addition to sidestepping ethical issues, this new work could also allow scientists to vault significant research problems, including the shortage of human embryonic stem cells and restrictions on federal funding for such research.

SOURCE: New York Times, November 21, 2007
Scientists Bypass Need For Embryo To Get Stem Cells
Gina Kolata