Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. today reported that company scientists have successfully generated human embryonic stem cells (hES cells) using an approach that does not harm embryos. The technique is reported in an article appearing online in the journal Nature. The article describes a method for deriving stem cells from human blastomeres with a single-cell biopsy technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This technique is used in in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics to assess the genetic health of preimplantation embryos. The cell lines produced using this technique appear to be identical to hES cell lines derived from later stage embryos using techniques that destroy the embryo’s developmental potential. ACT had previously reported the successful use of a similar technique in mice in Nature in October 2005.
“Until now, embryonic stem cell research has been synonymous with the destruction of human embryos,” stated Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President of Research & Scientific Development at ACT, and the study’s senior author. “We have demonstrated, for the first time, that human embryonic stem cells can be generated without interfering with the embryo’s potential for life. Overnight culture of a single cell obtained through biopsy allows both PGD and the development of stem-cell lines without affecting the subsequent chances of having a child. To date, over 1,500 healthy children have been born following the use of PGD.”
Current technology derives hES cells from the inner cell mass of later-stage embryos known as blastocysts, destroying their potential for further development. ACT’s approach generates human embryonic stem cells from a single cell obtained from an 8-cell-stage embryo.
To create hES cell lines, the researchers used single cells obtained from unused embryos produced by IVF for clinical purposes. Nineteen stem-cell outgrowths and two stable hES cell lines were obtained. These cell lines were genetically normal and retained their potential to form all of the cells in the human body, including nerve, liver, blood, vascular, and retinal cells that could potentially be used to treat a range of human diseases.
“One of the major ethical objections of those who oppose the generation of human embryonic stems cells is that all techniques, until now, have resulted in the destruction of the embryo,” stated Ronald Green, Ph.D., Director of Dartmouth College’s Ethics Institute and Chairman of ACT’s Ethics Advisory Board. “This technique overcomes this hurdle and has the potential to play a critical role in the advancement of regenerative medicine. It also appears to be a way out of the current political impasse in this country and elsewhere.”
“Our policy will be to work together with the scientific community to make new lines widely available for research,” stated William M. Caldwell IV, CEO of ACT. “Our ability to create human embryonic cell lines and therapies without harming the embryo should assuage the ethical concerns of many Americans. We look forward to potentially working with partners to produce significant medical benefit through the use of this technique.”
“While the continual advancement of science may, from time to time, appear to influence the political debate over human embryonic stem cell research, there are a host of good reasons to continue to allow and fund responsible and well-regulated embryo research, which may speed therapies to the bedside and improve reproductive medicine,” said Michael D. West, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of ACT.
Other ACT scientists who contributed to this paper include Drs. Irina Klimanskaya and Young Chung (co-equal first authors), Sandy Becker, and Dr. Shi-Jiang Lu.
About Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.
Advanced Cell Technology Inc. is a biotechnology company applying embryonic stem cell technology in the emerging field of regenerative medicine. The company operates facilities in Alameda, California and Worcester, Massachusetts. For more information about the company, please visit http://www.advancedcell.com..