A method of reprogramming rhesus macaque adult fibroblasts into embryonic stem cells using somatic cell nuclear transfer is presented in Nature. Shoukhrat Mitalipov and colleagues injected an adult fibroblast nucleus into an oocyte with its own nucleus removed. They then induced an early-stage embryo called a blastocyst, and teased out and cultured embryonic stem cells.
Although cloning of embryos has been achieved in several species, until now scientists have not achieved this in primates. Furthermore, creating embryonic stem cells via somatic cell nuclear transfer has only been achieved in mice. It is thought that in humans, such embryonic stem cells could be used to treat a variety of diseases without immune rejection, as they could be tailored to individual patients.
The team generated two embryonic stem cell lines from 304 oocytes taken from 14 rhesus monkeys, a 0.7% derivation efficiency from oocytes. Their success with primates suggests that this approach might work in humans for the purpose of generating patient-derived embryonic stem cells.
In a related News and Views article, Ian Wilmut and Jane Taylor discuss the potential of such cells not only for treating diseases but to understand the genetics of disease: 'In our haste to use patient-specific cells in therapy, however, we tend to overlook that they have great value for basic research and drug discovery. For example, such cells could provide new ways to study inherited diseases' they say.
In addition to the paper, an independent team carried out an experimental validation of the research. David Cram and colleagues confirm that the cells have indeed been produced by cloning, and their related report will be published online at the same time and with the same embargo.
Shoukhrat M. Mitalipov (Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton, OR, USA)
Ian Wilmut (University of Edinburgh, UK)
David Cram (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
(C) Nature press release.
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