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Stem Cells from Monkeys Created; Impact on Human Health Issues

Stem Cells from Monkeys Created; Impact on Human Health Issues

Personalized stem cells for humans are one step closer, as are the ethical concerns.

November 15, 2007 —

The brave new world medical technique of stem cell cloning was elevated to new possibilities yesterday in Oregon. Researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center successfully cloned monkey embryos from single monkey skin cells and also generated stem cells. The accomplishment settled one long-standing science debate: can primates (of which humans are a species member) be cloned. After many failures in primate cloning, leading to many scientists determining it was impossible, the Oregon group proved it possible. The team also successfully extracted and cloned stem cells from the monkey embryos. Stem cells are like cell blanks that can be coaxed into transforming into other specific cell and tissue types—a medical technique that could lead to revolutionary health applications, including nerve regeneration.

The monkey embryos were not transferred to a monkey womb for full gestation, but were destroyed. The stem cells harvested and replicated could be use for that monkey species, as they are completely compatible, but could not be used in humans. The next step is to take the same or a similar methodology used in the monkey research to human research. There are many ethics questions involved in creating personalized health-giving cells for humans, which could in the foreseeable future start appearing as options in our health insurance. There is first of all the questions of the animals being used in this kind of research. For human trials, large amounts of women’s eggs—with accompanying risk—would need to be harvested just to improve the technique. Human embryos would be destroyed after they become the fields from which the stem cells are harvested.

Researchers also point out that the new breakthrough in monkeys will allow them to better study human diseases that can be replicated through monkey stem cells.

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