Cloning Breakthrough: Researchers Convert Human Skin Cells into Embryonic Stem Cells

Posted on May 15, 2013

Human Donor Egg Skin Cell Nucleus


Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) announced they have reprogrammed human skin cells to become embryonic skin cells. The image above shows a donor egg cytoplasm containing a skin cell nucleus.

The scientists say the technique they used is a variation of somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT. SCNT involves transplanting the nucleus of one cell, containing an individual's DNA, into an egg cell that has had its genetic material removed. The unfertilized egg cell then develops and eventually produces stem cells.

BBC News reports that an embryo was developed to the blastocyst stage, which is around 150 cells.Previous unsuccessful attempts by several labs showed that human egg cells appear to be more fragile than eggs from other species and therefore harder to clone. To solve this problem, the OHSU group studied various alternative approaches first developed in monkey cells and were able to develop a successful method.

Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, Ph.D., a senior scientist at ONPRC, and leader of the research, said in a statement, "A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells. Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection. While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine."

The research was published by here in Cell.

Photo: OHSU