Last week researchers from the New York Stem Cell Foundation reported in Nature that they had used a cloning technique to create embryonic stem cells which could be derived directly from patients. And the breakthrough heralded a possible resurgence of a scientific field aimed at generating a range of new, customized stem cells that could fight disease or replace their lost or damaged counterparts.
"I would call it a major advance," noted stem cell researcher George Daley told Bloomberg's Robert Langreth. "It is a big deal."
Shinya Yamanaka set off a flurry of excitement when he proved that he had a formula for turning an adult cell into an embryonic stem cell. But since that big breakthrough there's been a growing body of evidence that those cells are riddled with abnormalities that make them useless for therapeutic purposes.
These new reprogrammed cells could offer investigators a much better approach to studying new drugs for Alzheimer's and other tough conditions. In the project researchers made embryos partially cloned from patients with diabetes. But they carried an extra set of chromosomes that would not have been viable if implanted in a womb.
"It's an early research step... towards curing devastating diseases," said Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory.