April 20, 2014 – DNA extracted from the skin of a 35 and 75 year-old male has been injected into four denucleated human eggs to produce clones of the skin donors. The stem cells extracted from these embryos matches their male donors. The company involved, Advanced Cell Technology, located in Marlborough, Massachusetts, is in the business of regenerative medicine focused on replacing malfunctioning or damaged cells with healthy ones.
Many diseases we humans experience are caused by malfunctioning cells. Stem cell research focuses on replacing those malfunctioning cells with healthy ones conceived from the patients themselves. In this case somatic cells, those derived from the skin of two adult male donors, were injected using a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). The result, the generation of donor-specific pluripotent stem cells that can be differentiated into different tissue types for use in treating a number of diseases.
Stem cells derived from embryos have shown promise in treating eye conditions like macular degeneration and dystrophy. But now cells derived through SCNT could conceivably be used to treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, or immune system diseases.
I suffer from osteoarthritis and am a candidate for knee replacement. It is conceivable that I could donate skin cells which could then be turned into cartilage and injected into my knee joint to restore what I have lost over the years. Currently clinical trials by Advanced Cell Technology focus on treating macular degeneration and dystrophy. Well I’ve held off getting the knee replaced, so maybe I’ll wait a bit longer and see if there will be a clinical trial for my condition in the near future.
SCNT can also restore damaged heart muscle in patients who have suffered a heart attack, or can replace the skin of burn victims. In fact the technology has the potential to change how medicine treats acute trauma cases.
The research appeared in the April 17 edition of the journal, Cell Stem Cell.