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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Researchers create stem cells from human egg

A group of 16 scientists released a report last Wednesday outlining what they and others see as a major step forward in the controversial field of reproducing living tissue — stem cell research.

The goal of the research, which was conducted by the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory (NYSCF) in New York City, is to create personalized human cells that replace or regenerate diseased or damaged tissue.

It could be used to help people with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, heart disease, traumatic spinal cord injury, vision and hearing loss and other diseases and injuries, according to an NYSCF press release.

The method, a variation on those used in the past to clone animals like Dolly the sheep in 1996, involves replacing the genetic material of an egg cell with the DNA from a mature cell to produce stem cells. The stem cells could then hypothetically grow into any of 200 types of tissues personalized to that individual whose cell was used. This personalization would remove the risk of the immune system rejecting the new cells.

The research did not go without problems, however. The cells produced by this method contained too much genetic material, with 69 chromosomes rather than the normal 46. These cells had the extra 23 chromosomes from the egg along with the added genetic material of the skin cells.

This type of cell is described as triploid. Because the produced cells were triploid, they have virtually no clinical use at this point, said Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, in Nature magazine last Wednesday. Advanced Cell Technology is a company based in Santa Monica, Calif., that develops therapies using stem cell technology.

The method, though currently flawed, raises the possibility of using a tweaked process of this somatic cell reprogramming to create banks of stem cells that could be used for a wide range of patients, said study collaborator Robin Goland, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

“In theory, stem cell lines could be matched to a particular patient, much as we do now when we screen an individual for compatibility with a kidney transplant,” Goland said in the NYSCF press release.

The research, led by Dieter Egli, senior research fellow at the NYSCF, differed from the group’s prior approach of trying to create personalized human stem cells.

Rather than removing the egg’s DNA and then inserting the mature skin cells into it, which normally stops dividing after a few divisions, Egli said the group left the egg DNA and then combined it with the skin cells’ genetic material, which developed further into a blastocyst cell.

It is from the blastocyst that the scientists could potentially derive the unique stem cells, the report stated. Leaving the egg cell’s genetic material, however, accounted for the extra 23 chromosomes in the combination that did develop into a blastocyst.

According to NYSCF spokesperson Diane Marr, none of the organization’s scientists are currently available for interviews. They have, however, released a statement dealing with their future outlook on the project.

“The research … brings us significantly closer to achieving (our) goal by demonstrating that embryonic stem cell lines can be made from a patient’s adult cells through reprogramming by human (egg cells),” the scientists said in the joint statement.

With regards to the research, Marquette biology professor James Courtright said he is only as informed on the specific research as he has read in the news, but that the scientific aspect of the research does not appear to be unethical.

Rachit Marwaha, a biology major and a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said stem cell treatments have the potential to help many lives in the future if the scientific community can develop the science further in humans.

“You have to look at it without religion and morals and be objective and think about how many lives it can help to repair damaged tissues with reproduced cells,” Marwaha said.

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