for National Geographic News
Editor's note: This story has been updated in response to corrections issued by the journal Nature to the original press release. The facts of the research paper are unchanged, but the researchers did destroy embryos during the course of their experiments.
New lines of human embryonic stem cells can be created without destroying embryos, scientists have announced.
A research team says it has shown that it is possible to pluck single cells from living embryos and use them to grow more stem cells.
The work, led by Robert Lanza, medical director of the biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology in Worchester, Massachusetts, was reported in the August 24 issue of the journal Nature.
"We're showing for the first time that it's possible to create stem cells without destroying the embryo and without destroying its potential for life," Lanza said.
"Hopefully, this removes the last rational reason for people to oppose stem cell research."
Destroy Life to Save Life
Stem cells are primitive cells that have the potential to transform into any of the various cells and tissues found in the human body.
Researchers hope the cells may one day be used to repair tissue, grow new organs, or lead to treatments for ailments such as spinal cord injuries or neurodegenerative diseases.
There are many types of stem cells with varying degrees of flexibility.
Embryonic stem cells have the greatest research potential, because they can develop into more cell types than other stem cells.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES