CBSN

Harvard: Stem Cell Workaround

KEY WEST, July 5 - Dave Price poses with two of Key West's finest including Kurt Stephens, center, winner of this year's first "Great American Vacation" getaway contest.
CBS
Harvard scientists announced they've discovered a way to fuse adult skin cells with embryonic stem cells, a promising and dramatic breakthrough that could lead to the creation of useful stem cells without first having to create and destroy human embryos.

Members of the research team were to discuss their findings Monday. Preliminary results of the potentially groundbreaking research were disclosed Sunday on the Science magazine web site.

The scientists said they were able to show in their early research that the fused cell "was reprogrammed to its embryonic state."

"If future experiments indicate that this reprogrammed state is retained after removing the embryonic stem cell DNA — currently a formidable technical hurdle — the hybrid cells could theoretically be used to produce embryonic stem cells lines that are tailored to individual patients without the need to create and destroy human embryos," said a summary of the research reported on the Science site.

That could lead to creation of stem cells without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, thereby sidestepping much of the controversy over stem cell research.

Supporters of stem cell research say it could lead to treatments for diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and other injuries.

But up until now, the only way for scientists to turn a person's ordinary cell into a "personalized" one was to first turn that "ordinary" cell into an embryo and then destroy it, in order to retrieve the new stem cells growing inside.