Chinese researchers used cells, known as induced pluripotent skin cells (iPS), that have been reprogrammed to look and act like embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old embryos, have the power to morph into any cell type and, in mice, can be implanted into a mother’s womb to create living mouse pups.
Their experiment, published in Nature, means that it is theoretically possible to clone someone using ordinary connective tissue cells found on the person’s skin, but the experts were quick to distance themselves from such controversy.
“We are confident that tremendous good can come from demonstrating the versatility of reprogrammed cells in mice, and this research will be used to … understand the root causes of disease and lead to viable treatments and cures of human afflictions,” said Fanyi Zeng of the Shanghai Institute of Medical Genetics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
“It would not be ethical to attempt to use iPS cells in human reproduction. It is important for science to have ethical boundaries,” she said, adding that their study was “in no way meant as a first step in that direction”.
No one has ever cloned a human being and while many stem cell experiments in mice have been replicated in humans, not all have.
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