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Good News About Stem Cells

This administration has been adamantly against stem cell research based on embryos, so scientists have been trying to figure out how to create these valuable medical tools, which can be turned into almost any kind of replacement organ, in another way. Now they think they can be made from our own skin.

Embryonic stem cells are unique because they can develop into virtually any kind of tissue type. To create them, an individual?s DNA would be placed into a human egg, resulting in a blastocyst that houses a supply of stem cells. But until recently, to access these cells, researchers would have had to destroy a viable embryo.

But that's changed: new research offers the hope of one day creating customized embryonic stem cells with a patient's own DNA, without using eggs or destroying any embryos. The implications for disease treatment could be staggering. So far, researchers have only done this with mice. If the work can be replicated in human cells, it may mean that a patient's skin cells, for example, could be reprogrammed to become embryonic stem cells. Those embryonic stem cells could then be prodded into becoming various cells types, such as cells to treat diabetes, cells to create a new blood supply for a leukemia patient, motor neuron cells to treat Parkinson's disease. A new day would dawn for medicine.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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