Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University – OHSU – have made a significant breakthrough in efforts to develop human stem cell therapies that may be used to combat numerous devastating diseases. For the first time, scientists have successfully derived embryonic stem cells by reprogramming of genetic material from skin cells while studying rhesus macaque monkeys. The breakthrough follows several previously unsuccessful attempts by the OHSU-based team and other scientific teams worldwide.
“Many scientists believe that embryonic stem cells hold great promise for treating a variety of diseases including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiac disease and spinal cord injuries,” explained Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., director of the OHSU-based research team. “Using our advanced methods, it is conceivable that years from now, patients could receive therapeutic embryonic stem cells developed from their very own cells meaning that there would be no concerns about transplant rejection. Another noteworthy aspect of this research is that it does not involve the use of fertilized embryos, a topic which has been the source of a significant ethical debate in this country. ”
Neverthless “it’s a matter of time before they produce a cloned monkey,” said Jose Cibelli, a cloning expert at Michigan State University, who wasn’t involved in the study. It also means, he added, “that they are one step closer to where the efficiency is high enough that someone is willing to try” to clone a person.
The results of the work were released online by the scientific journal Nature.