The donor "adult" cells came from patients aged 2 to 56, with a variety of conditions ranging from spinal injuries to an inherited immune condition. The work proves that matching ESCs can be derived via therapeutic cloning from donors of any age and sex.
"This is an enormous stride in the long journey to determine whether nuclear-transfer-derived human embryonic stem cells might be eventually suitable for transplantation medicine," says Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the only non-Korean member of the team.
But if Verlinsky's claims stand up, there might be a much easier way to create matching ESCs. His method starts with an existing human ESC line. The nuclei containing the DNA of the ESCs are removed by spinning them in a centrifuge. Verlinsky would not reveal the details of his technique, but other teams glue cells to a surface and spin them until the denser nucleus is forced out.
Then the team take cells from adults and fuse them with the enucleated ESCs. The idea is that the cytoplasm of an enucleated ESC will reprogram the donor nuclei, turning the fused cell into an ESC too. The result, Verlinsky told a conference on pre-implantation genetics in London last week, is new lines of ESCs that are genetically identical to the adult donor. He calls the new cells stembrids.
His claim stunned the audience. How, asked stem cell expert Alan Trounson from Monash University in Australia, could he be sure that the stembrids contain only the genetic material of the adult donors? Verlinsky's response was that he fused male adult cells with a female ESC line, and the resulting cells were male. However, Verlinsky's team has not yet tested the HLA proteins on the cell surface to pr