Scientists Make Stem Cells Without Embryos

Long-awaited breakthrough bypasses ethical wrangling
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2007 10:00 AM CST
In this undated photo released by Japan's Kyoto University Prof. Shinya Yamanaka of Department of Stem Cell Biology Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007, nerve cells are shown. (AP Photo/Shinya Yamanaka, HO)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Scientists have figured out how to make stem cells out of ordinary skin cells—a long-awaited breakthrough that could bypass ethical wrangling over embryos and eggs. Two teams of researchers, one American and one Japanese, arrived at the process independently, the Washington Post reports. One scientist called the discovery "the biological equivalent to the Wright Brothers' first airplane."

The researchers used genetically engineered viruses to change ordinary cells into stem cells. The development carries huge implications for the future of stem cell research, because opponents of harvesting embryos as a source will likely have no objection to stem cells made in this way. "I see no reason on Earth why this would not be eligible for federal funding," said an NIH official.