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Scientists have isolated the first human embryonic stem cell lines specifically tailored to match the nuclear DNA of patients, both males and females of various ages, suffering from disease or spinal cord injury.

The research is being released by the journal Science, which is published by AAAS, the non-profit science society, on the Science Express website on 19 May, 2005.

These cell lines will enable the study of human disease in cells in the laboratory. The work also moves scientists one step closer to the goal of transplanting healthy cells into humans to replace cells damaged by diseases such as Parkinson's and diabetes.

Each of the 11 new human embryonic stem cell lines was created by transferring the nuclear genetic material from a non-reproductive cell of a patient into a donated egg, or "oocyte," whose nucleus had been removed. This method is called "somatic cell nuclear transfer" or SCNT. Next, oocytes with the patient's genetic material were allowed to grow to the blastocyst stage, an early stage of embryo development. Stem cells were then derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst. In laboratory culture, these cell lines displayed signs of immunological compatibility with the patients' cells, Science authors reported.

Oocyte donors and patients who donated non-reproductive cells were all unpaid volunteers. All donors signed informed-consent agreements. For underage donors of non-reproductive cells, both parents signed informed-consent agreements.

Before patient-specific stem cells can potentially be used in the clinic, a variety of issues must be addressed, the researchers emphasized. The stem cell lines produced from patients with disease will likely display characteristics of the disease, so they will probably not be appropriate for direct use in treating patients. In addition, researchers must develop methods to efficiently direct the differentiation of embryonic stem cells to specific stable cell types. S
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