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For the first time: an efficient process for producing stem cells from cloned embryos

The embryos are genetically compatible with the patients, because they were cloned from them. The method will make it possible to develop replacement stem cells for patients, and organs for transplantation that will not be rejected

Dramatic development in stem cell research: In pioneering research, scientists from South Korea succeeded in developing an efficient process of cloning human embryos and producing stem cells from them. The scientists reported their research yesterday in the journal "Science". In the past, the group of scientists, led by Dr. Woo Suk Huang and Dr. Shin Yong Moon from Seoul National University, succeeded in producing a stem cell from a cloned embryo, but the process was very complicated, and the scientists said there was no point in trying to repeat it. Some also questioned the veracity of the report.

The new process presented by the scientists is considered the most effective. "This is tremendous progress," said yesterday Dr. Leonard Zon, a stem cell researcher at Harvard University Medical School in the US and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, who was not involved in the research. The method, "therapeutic cloning", is one of the greatest hopes in the field of stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells can develop into all types of cells in the body. Since the cells are obtained from embryos cloned from humans, they are exact genetic copies of them. Scientists want to obtain these types of stem cells from patients, in order to study the origins of their diseases and develop replacement cells, which will be identical to those that the sick humans have lost. In addition, the hope is to use the embryonic stem cells to develop organs for transplantation - which will not be rejected by the body because they will be identical to the original organ. Dr. Zon warned that "a lot of work will be needed" before stem cells realize these promises, but added that the new findings could bring scientists significantly closer to their goal.

Until now, scientists have only studied stem cells taken from human embryos created for this purpose, or from embryos created in fertility clinics and donated. In addition, mouse stem cells have been studied, and scientists are also trying to find a way to make them develop into specific tissue types.

However, the researchers needed embryos genetically compatible with the patients. The only way to obtain such embryos is through the use of embryos that are clones of the patients, but human cloning seems almost impossible. To create a clone, scientists insert genetic material from a patient's cell into another woman's unfertilized egg, from which the genetic material has been removed. The genes from the patient's cell take over the egg and instruct it to divide and develop into an embryo genetically identical to the patient, and not to the egg donor. About five days later, when the cloned embryo has about 100 cells, dense stem cells appear that look like a ball.
Advertisement 18 women who donated eggs participated in the study. Also, 11 patients participated in it - eight who suffered spinal injuries and three children, including a 10-year-old boy suffering from spinal injuries.

Yesterday voices of opponents were also heard. Dr. Leon Cass, chairman of the US President's Council on Biotechnology, announced in an email that "the research may have technical advantages, but it is morally worrisome. He creates human embryos exclusively for research purposes, and greatly facilitates the production of cloned babies and the utilization of donor eggs in a way that will not benefit them." And the director of the Division for the Encouragement of Birth at the Council of American Catholic Bishops, Richard Dorflinger, said he fears that the next in line will be a cloned baby.
The editor of the science site adds: British scientists have cloned a human embryo

British scientists said they succeeded in cloning the first human embryo. A team from Newcastle University took eggs from 11 women, removed their genetic content and replaced them with DNA from embryonic stem cells.
The goal of this work - subject to fierce debate - is to create cloned embryos whose stem cells will be used to treat serious diseases.
The stem cells were created by taking genetic material from the patient and inserting it into the donated egg. The cells created in this way were compatible with the individual and could be used to treat diseases such as diabetes without problems or rejection. Some believe that therapeutic cloning - that is, cloning for medical purposes - is considered to have a huge potential to cure diseases and disabilities and is therefore allowed in the UK. Cloning for reproductive purposes - prohibited by law in 2001.

The situation in Israel
In Israel, a law was passed in 2004 preventing the ability to clone a clone for reproductive purposes for five years (see attached links).

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