Science28 Jun 2007 09:45 am
Stem cell research is developing constantly, and there’s always an exciting new development to report. One of these was announced just this morning: the derivation of embryonic stem cells from unfertilized eggs.
As mentioned in today’s entry of The Intellectual Devotional, “stem cells have the unique ability to differentiate themselves into other specialized cells.” As a result, they can be used to harvest replacement tissue for a variety of medical purposes: new organs can potentially be created; damaged spinal cords can be repaired; regions of the brain damaged by stroke can be regenerated. But, as with any graft or transplant, there is danger of rejection: rather than being integrated into the body, alien tissue would be attacked by its immune system. Today’s announcement solves this problem, at least for women. Embryonic stem cells harvested from unfertilized eggs would be a perfect genetic match for the donor.
The use of unfertilized eggs also sidesteps a significant ethical dilemma. Because the eggs aren’t fertilized by human sperm, there is no question of their developing into mature human beings. The debate over embryonic stem cells certainly isn’t over, but a significant (and ethically neutral) avenue of research has just been opened.
Read about this new research in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells here.
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