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Cloned stem cells prove identical to fertilized stem cells

. In other words, the egg needs to erase all tissue-specific memories from the skin cell and revert it into a genomic blank slate.

But this entire process is almost never perfect, and nearly all cells in a cloned blastocyst retain some memory of their original source. As a result, the developing fetus inevitably has some degree of genetic abnormality. Most clones, in fact, die in utero or at birth. The few clones that make it into adulthood are often plagued by bizarre health complications. This is one reason why scientists generally believe that attempting to clone a human being is morally reprehensible.

But are the cloned embryo's stem cells beleaguered by the same defects?

Studies have demonstrated that a small number of stem cells in the blastocyst appear to be spared this faulty reprogramming. When stem cells from a cloned blastocyst are removed and placed into a dish, most die. A few, however, survive and give rise to an embryonic stem cell line, and these appear to be thoroughly reprogrammed.

Researchers have tried to test the integrity of these surviving stem cells by transplanting them into fertilized blastocysts and then observing the overall health of the resulting animal. Although these animals generated entirely from cloned stem cells appear to be fine, many scientists don't accept this result as definitive.

Tobias Brambrink, a postdoctoral researcher in the Jaenisch lab, tried a different approach, comparing gene expression in cloned and fertilization-derived stem cells. With a series of microarray chips, Brambrink measured which genes were active and which were silent in both kinds of cells. To ensure the accuracy of his results, he compared five lines of cloned stem cells with five fertilization-derived stem cell lines.

"The results are very clear," says Brambrink. "If a gene is active in fertilized stem cells, it's also active in cloned stem cells, and at the same level of activity. The same goes
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Source:Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research


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