Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that eggs that are incapable of becoming viable embryos and typically discarded in fertility treatments can be used as a source for stem cells. This development could have major implications for research into illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, and diabetes.
Speaking at the Annual Meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Australia, Dr. Paul De Sousa, Roslin Cells’ chief scientific officer, said, “Typically up to 30 per cent of eggs in an IVF treatment cycle will be unusable as they fail to fertilize or do so abnormally. These eggs could not develop into a viable embryo and are therefore normally discarded in routine IVF treatment.”
“Until now, it has been thought that they are also incapable of producing embryonic stem cells. My team at Roslin Cells has been working with colleagues at the Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals Trust and the University of Manchester to develop techniques to stimulate these eggs so that the cells divide and develop. Shortly after this process starts, we are able to extract embryonic stem cells. The new cell line which we have produced in this way, demonstrates that embryonic stem cells can be produced from tissue which was previously not considered of use to stem cell research.”
Although the discovery is still at an early stage, this research supports a less controversial source of embryonic stem cells and could accelerate the development of regenerative medicine.
Illustration: MicroSoft clipart.
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