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Adult stem cells can be obtained from various tissues of adults or in some cases from neonatal tissues.
A more likely benefit of the technology is that it would further facilitate a wide range of experiments to explore the underpinnings of genetic disease and possible forms of amelioration and cure, many of which would not be possible using h ES cells derived from blastocysts generated by fertilization (IVF), whose nuclear genomes are not defined.
Although the promise of such research is as yet unrealized, most researchers believe that it will be a critical source of both important knowledge and clinical resources.
One report described the work of James Thomson and his co-workers at the University of Wisconsin, who derived h ES cells from a human blastocyst, comprising about 200 cells, donated by a couple that had received infertility treatments (Thomson et al., 1998).
Their accomplishment was significant, because h ES cells are considered by many to be the most fundamental and extraordinary of the stem cells; unlike the more differentiated adult stem cells or other cell types, they are pluripotent.
(See the glossary for terminology used in this report.) The second report described the successful isolation of h EG cells in the laboratory of John Gearhart and his colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University.
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That team derived stem cells from primordial gonadal tissue obtained from cadaveric fetal tissue (Shamblott et al., 1998).h EG cells, which originate from the primordial reproductive cells of the developing fetus, have properties similar to those of h ES cells, although there has been less research into their potential.The third report, an article in the November 12, 1998, edition of the , described work funded by Advanced Cell Technology of Worcester, Massachusetts.It is important to note that stem cells made via NT result from an asexual process that does not involve the generation of a novel combination of genes from two “parents.” In this sense, it may be more acceptable to some than the creation of blastocysts for research purposes by IVF (National Institutes of Health, Human Embryo Research Panel, 1994).Use of NT for biomedical research, as distinct from its use to create a human being, has been considered by several advisory groups to be ethically acceptable under appropriate conditions involving the proper review and conduct of the research (NBAC, 1997, 1999a; NRC, 2002).Other stem cells are less committed and retain the potential to differentiate into many types of cells.It is believed that stem cells also form reservoirs of repair cells to replace cells and tissues that degenerate over the life span of the organism.In both examples, the tissue involved naturally renews itself from its pool of stem cells—a property that can be exploited for medical use.It is possible that similar approaches can be developed for other tissues (such as muscle).The report was not published in a scientific journal and therefore did not meet the higher standard of peer review, but the company claimed that its scientists had caused human somatic cells to revert to the primordial state by fusing them with cow eggs.From this fusion product, a small clump of cells resembling ES cells appears to have been isolated (Wade, 1998).