Scientists have used the cloning technique that led to Dolly the sheep to turn human skin into embryonic stem cells – which can make any tissue in the body.
The US team overcame technical problems that had frustrated researchers for more than a decade to create batches of the bodys master cells from donated skin.
The work will spark fresh interest in the use of cloning in medical research, and reignite the controversy over a procedure that demands a supply of human eggs, and the creation and destruction of early stage embryos. The US group employed the technique to make embryonic stem cells that were genetically matched to individuals. Such cells could be used to study diseases in exquisite detail, and regenerate damaged organs and tissues.
A human egg before nuclear extraction and fusion with a skin cell. The resulting embryonic stem cells were genetically identical to the skin donor. Photograph: Oregon Health & Science University