by Steven Ertelt
September 7, 2006
Lansing, MI (LifeNews.com) — After a biotech firm made a misleading announcement claiming to have found a way to obtain embryonic stem cells without destroying the human embryo, scientists at Michigan State University say they have started a new process that could lead to getting the cells without taking human life.
Jose Cibelli, a professor of physiology and animal science, says his team has taken the first steps in new research that could lead to obtaining the controversial embryonic stem cells.
Reporting in this week’s edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cibelli’s team says it has identified genes that are active only in the human egg.
That, he says, brings them closer to learning how eggs produce embryonic stem cells. If the team can duplicate that process without creating a human embryo — a unique human being — that would result in obtaining the cells without destroying human life.
However, Cibelli says that any potential therapeutic uses resulting from the research are five to 10 years down the road.
"There is this magic trick that’s in the egg," Cibelli told the Lansing State Journal newspaper, "and we don’t know what it is."
He explained that when a cell from another part of the body interacts with a human egg, the egg stops the genes producing that cell and begins the process of developing the human embryo.
If his team can reverse the process and go back to the cells and genes before the embryo develops, it’s essentially "turning these cells back in time," he told the Journal.
The team compared the genes to every other cell in the body in order to identify them and then compared them to embryonic stem cells. He told the newspaper his team found 66 genes that could be the ones needed to be successful.
"Now we’re in the process of cloning these genes one by one and seeing if they have a function in this reprogramming activity," Cibelli told the newspaper.
Should the team find the right genes scientists could put those genes into normal cells from any part of the body to grow those cells or to produce embryonic stem cells without creating a human embryo.