Scientists one step away from cloning adult humans

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Jun 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT

We're not yet sure whether it's for good or evil, but scientists from the Research Institute for Stem Cell Research at CHA Health Systems in Los Angeles and the University of Seoul have come one step closer to cloning a human. Using skin cells from two adult males, these scientists created embryos with perfectly cloned DNA of the donors.

It's probably for evil.

Scientists have experimented with cloning for decades, but it wasn't until 1996, with the birth of Dolly the sheep, that they got it to work. Since then, they've cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood, and have learned how to turn stem cells directly into human brain cells. But we still haven’t made any progress in the advancement of human cloning. Much of that has to do with the fact that such experiments are banned in many countries, but it’s also just not a very easy thing to do.

Last year, scientists created stem cells in a lab from the skin cells of babies, but they were still unsure of whether this could be accomplished when working with adult cells that change with age. However, this research team took skin cell nuclei from two males: one 35 years old, and the other 75 years old. The team placed these nuclei into an unfertilized egg with its own nucleus removed. A small electric shock triggered the cells into dividing, which successfully created a blastocyst. A blastocyst is a small ball of hundreds of cells. With in vitro fertilization, it is the blastocyst that is injected into the womb, where it eventually becomes a fetus, but the researchers didn't try to take things that far.

This particular experiment was not meant to clone a human being, but instead to create what is known as therapeutic cloning. The idea is that this new technique would be used to grow adult stem cells into any tissue in the body, creating tissue and organs that won’t result in rejection by the body, a common problem with transplanted tissues and organs donated by third parties. Considering that one of the test subjects was 75 years old, this means that even the elderly could get new regenerated body parts in the future, potentially extending human life spans significantly.

Via The Telegraph