Scientists discover way to make human skin cells take on embryonic qualities

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

It could be a big breakthrough in stem cell research.

Scientists from the U.S. and Japan have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells.

They use a "direct reprogramming" technique that avoids the ethical, political and practical obstacles that have held up attempts to produce human stem cells by cloning embryos.

One expert says this scientific milestone is "a bit like learning how to turn lead into gold."

But researchers caution that the work is far from providing medical payoffs, saying it's still important to pursue the embryo cloning strategy. At this point, the technique requires disrupting the skin cells' DNA, creating the potential for developing cancer. That wouldn't be acceptable for developing tissue for transplant.

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