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Stem Cells Have Few Mutations

ur study defines one of the problems that can be screened for in embryonic stem cells,'' said Tischfield. The mutation found in the cells ``does not present an insurmountable problem'' in developing ways to use stem cells against disease, he said.

``By knowing what kind of problems that you can find, it allows you to check for them,'' he said. Stambrook noted, however, that the chromosome deletion mutation seems to increase in frequency as a colony of stem cells ages.``These events accumulate as one maintains these cells in culture,'' he said.

Larry Goldstein, a cell biologist at the University of California, San Diego, said the finding that mutations accumulate in a cell culture suggests that it is unlikely that the 78 cell colonies approved for federal funding will be enough to develop medical treatments.

``This paper highlights an issue that we have known about,'' he said. ``Because of the accumulation of mutations in cell lines that have been in culture for a long time, the 78 cell lines are not likely to be maximally beneficial'' for medical treatments.''

Dr. Clive Svendsen, a stem cell researcher at the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin, said the Tischfield-Stambrook study ``points out something important to we need to be aware of'' in studying human embryonic stem cells and their possible medical application. But he noted that mouse stem cells are known to be more prone to mutation than are human stem cells and that what is found in mice often does not apply to humans.


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