Dr. Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute and Columbia University Medical Center's Dr. Mark Sauer along with a team of researchers created a disease-specific embryonic stem cell line using somatic cell nuclear transfer. This new line has two sets of chromosomes.
Researchers took skin cells from a woman who suffers from type 1 diabetes and reprogrammed into embryonic stem cells then converted these into cells that produce insulin in mice. The team used cloning technology to create stem cells which are matched to the woman and her disease genetically.
The study used a method that is quite similar to the process of cloning animals. Scientists put DNA taken from the woman's skin cells in donated human eggs which were then grown into embryos. They removed stem cells from the early embryos and turned it into cells that produce insulin. These stem cells can develop into any cell type of the body.
Researchers had previously used different methods to develop insulin cells that match diabetic people and the new study can be used for comparison. Scientists have also studied insulin-producing cell transplants from cadavers to explore possible treatments and create replacements cells specific to patients not only with diabetes but also those with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart failure and other conditions.
"For me this is the way to go," senior study author Dr. Dieter Egli said. "This is about reprogramming a patient's own cells, with their own genotype, with their own DNA that are immunologically matched to them and no one else, essentially. I think this is going to become a reality."
The somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) process is increasingly becoming advanced and it should be considered as a reliable pluripotent cell source.
The study does not show if there are adequate eggs in supply for a large-scale stem cell production using this method. Egli said that there could be adequate supply of eggs for stem cell cloning and other research purposes in the near future; pointing out that 10,000 egg donor cycles happen in the United States every year.
Embryonic stem cell investigation is a controversial issue because medical treatment development entails destroying the embryo for use of stem cells. Ethical issues arise from destroying embryos which can fully develop a human being.