PerspectiveCell Biology

New Potential for Human Embryonic Stem Cells

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Science  06 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5391, pp. 1061-1062
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5391.1061

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Cells taken at a stage of embryo development have the potential to differentiate into all of the different tissue types of an organism. These embryonic stem (ES) cells are therefore of great interest in possible transplant therapies for genetic disease. ES cells have previously been obtained from some mammalian species, but not others. In his Perspective, Gearhart discusses a report in the same issue by Thomson et al. in which the successful derivation of ES cell lines from human cells is described. This achievement may open doors to genetic therapy, but additional research and resolution of practical issues will be necessary. As Gearhart describes, one such issue is the current prohibition by U.S. federal law of federally funded research on embryonic cells, and this legislation will need to be reexamined in light of these new developments.