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Scientists Create Embryo Clones Using Adult Cells

WebMD News from HealthDay

April 22, 2014 -- For the first time, scientists say they have used material from cells from two adults to create early stage cloned embryos. They then used those embryos to create tissue that was an exact genetic match of the donors.

The aim of the research is to be able to grow tissue in the laboratory from patients' own cells that could be used to treat a wide range of diseases, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The study, published April 17 in Cell Stem Cell, is the first to create cloned embryos with adult cells -- last year, similar results were achieved using infant and fetal cells.

"The proportion of diseases you can treat with [lab-made tissue] increases with age. So if you can't do this with adult cells, it is of limited value," Robert Lanza, co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology Inc. of Marlborough, Mass, told the WSJ.

In the latest research, funded by the government of Korea and performed at a lab in California, the adult cells used came from one 35-year-old man and one 75-year-old man.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a development biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland, was the leader of the 2013 study that produced cloned embryos from infant or fetal cells. He told the WSJ that he was "happy to hear that our experiment was verified and shown to be genuine."

According to the newspaper, the embryos resulting from Lanza's research may have limitations that prevent them from ever producing a human clone, even if they were implanted in a womb. And experts stress that the creation of a human clone is certainly not on the horizon -- researchers have unsuccessfully tried to create a cloned monkey for years.

Still, this line of research has some worried. "If we're closer to some rogue scientist or fertility doctor using published techniques to create cloned humans, it certainly ups the stakes and means we should be moving to put a federal law in place," Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a nonprofit public interest group in Berkeley, Calif, told the WSJ.

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