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Wednesday, August 23rd 2006

Objections Noted

Scientists have grown stem cells without destroying the embryo.

Scientists led by Robert Lanza at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts created the stem cells by adapting a technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is already used in fertility clinics to check IVF embryos for genetic defects.

In PGD, a single cell is plucked from an embryo when it is a three-day-old ball of only eight cells. The cell is then tested for defects such as cystic fibrosis, and if it is healthy, the embryo is implanted. More than 2,000 babies have been born worldwide following PGD.

Dr Lanza’s group showed that the single cell removed from an embryo can be grown into many cells overnight, and some of those can then be turned into embryonic stem cells. In tests, the team took 91 clumps of cells from 16 embryos and created two sets of embryonic stem cells, according to Nature today.

Of course, let us approach with caution.

British experts applauded the discovery yesterday, but raised questions about its success rate and the practical benefits it would bring to patients.