Human embryonic stem cells can be produced without damage to early stage embryos created by in vitro fertilisation. A single cell can be carefully removed from an eight-cell embryo (pictured is a sixteen-cell embryo), allowing IVF clinics to test whether embryos are healthy enough to implant. Researchers have recently used the technique to extract a stem cell they successfully cultivated on a bed of a human laminin: LN-521, a protein common to early stage embryos. The single stem cell multiplied without contamination, a common problem when cells are cultured with human or animal protein. This research demonstrates that embryos can yield tissue for research and still develop into healthy individuals. A fact that should help to expedite the search for cures for serious illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. In the US, human embryos can’t legally be used for research if they have to be destroyed.
Written by Brona McVittie
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