ACT reports method for parthenogenic embryonic stem cells

According to a press release (1 February 2002), researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) of Worcester, Mass. report in the 1 February 2002 issue of Science that they have developed a large variety of specialized cell types — including heart and brain cells — from embryonic monkey stem cells through a process called parthenogenesis. The researchers reported that they had generated a "pluripotent" stem cell line. From that cell line, they already have produced brain neurons, heart muscle, smooth muscle, beating ciliated epithelial cells and a number of other kinds of cells, demonstrating, they said, "broad differentiation capabilities of primate stem cells derived by parthenogenesis." The parthenogenetic process leads to stem cells without creating embryos that normally require an egg from the mother and a sperm from the father. Parthenogenesis is defined as a process by which embryonic development is initiated directly from an unfertilized egg cell.

Additional coverage can be found in articles from Reuters News Service, United Press International, the New York Times, and Nature Science Update.

An interesting perspective on the announcement can be found in another press release don`t think the fact that a parthenogenetic embryo is not viable solves the ethical problems for those who object to using human embryos for stem cells," says Dr Donald Bruce, Director of Society Religion and Technology Project of the Church of Scotland, which has been examining ethical issues of cloning and stem cells since 1996.

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