New Stem Cell Breakthrough Avoids Destroying Human Embryos

Currently, couples who choose to donate their unneeded or defective embryos for medical research go through a separate process of consent from the consent for in vitro fertilization. Eggan said, "We as a scientific community want to be especially sensitive" at this time of personal decision-making. Eggan has already received donations of fertilized eggs, or zygotes, from such couples.

Controversy Continues

Eggan, Hochedlinger and Wernig emphasized that they support the current efforts in stem cell research, and that their experiments were not designed to create a way out of stem cell and cloning controversy.

Rather than moving away from using traditional methods for stem cell research, the new methods in mice offer additional options for researchers. Hochedlinger stated, "[Genetic reprogramming] does not make other approaches obsolete. We haven't applied the results to humans. It would be a mistake to ban somatic cell nuclear transfer."

Other scientists were enthusiastic about the findings.

Sean Morrison of the University of the Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology wrote of the genetic reprogramming work: "This is a remarkable achievement that contributes important new insights to our understanding of pluripotency. Nonetheless, it would be premature to conclude that this represents a replacement for traditional embryonic stem cell research."

Hochedlinger agreed. "We have to study human embryonic stem cells to understand how they work, to achieve reprogramming in human cells."

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