One cell is enough

Scientists have reared stem cells from human embryos without destroying them.

This accomplishment can end the discussion whether experimenting on human embryos is good or bad.  Until now, scientists had to destroy the human foetus in order to obtain the cells. However, now it appears that human embryonic stem cells can be obtained without destroying the embryo. The accomplishment has been noted in “Nature”. The authors are scientists of a private company Advanced Cell Technology. They conducted experiments on embryos, left unused after in-vitro insemination. 16 embryos were used, each consisting of eight to ten cells. Using a small pipette, scientists removed one or two cells from each embryo.

Efficiency will increase

Collected cells were grown in a vessel. They managed to derive stem cell colonies from two of them. “Even though we succeeded in only 2 of 16 cases, I am sure we can significantly increase the efficiency of our method, although we are likely to achieve 100% efficiency” said Robert Lanza, one of the authors. Determining that the cells were indeed stem cells was proven by detecting specific stem cell proteins (e.g. the Nanog protein, of which we had written recently). The other test was performed by implanting those cells into various mouse organs. The cells behaved differently in various organs, which shows their capabilities.

Better than from blood

Only 2 stem cell lines were obtained, but those colonies consisted of the highest quality totipotential (omnipotent). These cells are very valuable because they can do much more than cells obtained from for example cord blood. In specific environment they are able to become any kind of human cells. Scientist predict that in the future, those cells can be used in curing many severe diseases and grow organs for transplantation. An embryonic stem cell line, if properly taken care of, can divide an unlimited number of times and be an unlimited source of stem cells. After removing one or two cells from an eight-cell embryo, it can be re-implanted into a mother’s womb and develop into a healthy human being. The collection of one or two cells doesn’t affect the person’s health. It has been proven as cells have been collected this way for preimplantation diagnostics and used in examining genetic disorders. Preimplantation diagnostics have been carried out since 1989. There are ongoing efforts to put it to use in Poland and it will be available this year at the Reproduction and Gynaecologic Endocrinology Clinic