Stem Cell Research Breakthrough

(AP)
Scientists have potentially discovered a way to make an almost endless supply of stem cells that could safely be used in patients and research, without any need to destroy human embryos.

According to an article in Monday's Guardian, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of taking adult skin cells and transforming them into embryonic form.

Stem cells can potentially be turned into any tissue in the body. According to the report, researchers believe they could be used to make "spare parts," to replace organs affected by disease and treat conditions such as Parkinson's disease and diabetes.

Scientists have been able to make stem cells from adult cells for more than a year now, but the procedure involved injecting viruses into the cells, which could cause cancer. Now, scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have found a way to reach the same goal without depending on viruses.

Also, because the cells can be made from a patient's own skin, they carry the same DNA, therefore preventing the risk of being rejected by the immune system.

The breakthrough has been praised by abortion foes, who have long called for an end to research involving stem cells collected from human embryos.

Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep, heads the regenerative medicine department at Edinburgh University and took part in the research.

"This is a significant step in the right direction," Wilmut told The Guardian. "The team has made great progress and combining this work with that of other scientists working on stem cell differentiation, there is hope that the promise of regenerative medicine could soon be met."
  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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