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Stem Cell Research
Scientists, from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Harvard University, say they have discovered a new source of cells that could one day repair damaged human organs. This report from Science correspondent Matt McGrath:
Scientists believe that stem cells offer real hope of treating illnesses like diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Stem cells act like master cells and can grow into the types of tissue that are destroyed by the progression of these diseases. But this field of research has been hampered by ethical concerns over the source of stem cells.
Scientists say the most useful types are derived from specially grown human embryos. Opponents say that because these embryos are destroyed in the process, this is tantamount to cannibalism.
Now scientists in the United States, after a seven year research effort, say they have found a ready source of useful stem cells in amniotic fluid, the liquid that surrounds a growing baby. The researchers say that these cells seem to have many of the qualities of embryonic stem cells. The team have managed to turn them into functioning muscle, fat, blood vessel, nerve and liver cells. In tests, these newly made cells seemed to restore some function in brain damaged mice.
Although amniotic fluid derived stem cells are small in number, their ability to renew themselves and their versatility gives the researchers great hope. They say that a bank of 100,000 of these stem cells could supply a genetic match for 99 percent of the US population.
Matt McGrath, BBC
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