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Making Stem Cells in a Lab

Scientists Coax Unfertilized Eggs From Mice Into Embryonic Stem Cells
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 14, 2006 -- Scientists may have found a way to make embryonic stem cells from unfertilized eggs -- at least in mice.

Lab tests show that it's possible to coax unfertilized eggs from female mice into "embryonic" stem cells, and to transplant those stem cells back into mice.

Those findings come from researchers including George Daley, MD, PhD. Daley works at Children's Hospital Boston, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

"This technique, if proven effective in humans, offers an efficient way of generating customized stem cells lines from women," Daley says in a Children's Hospital Boston news release.

The study appears online in the "SciencExpress" edition of Science.

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into other kinds of cells. Embryonic stem cells may develop into more types of cells than adult stem cells.

Daley and colleagues took unfertilized eggs from the ovaries of female mice.

In a series of lab tests, the researchers nudged the eggs to develop into embryonic stem cells -- even though the eggs had never been fertilized -- through a process called parthenogenesis.

When the scientists injected those stem cells back into mice, the mice's immune systems accepted the stem cells.

It's not yet clear if the technique is safe for humans.

"Right now this technique is useful for basic research, but we are hopeful that parthenogenetic cells might prove useful for therapies," Daley says.

"However, we'll have to demonstrate the safety and durability of cells derived from parthenogenetic embryonic stem cells before we could imagine any clinical use," he says.

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