Korean Scientists lead by Woo Suk Hwang and Shing Yong Moon of Seoul National University in Korea have successfully generated new lines of human embryonic stem cells that are exact genetic matches for individual patients, according to a new study.

The researchers derived stem cells from patients with spinal cord injury, a congenital immune disorder and juvenile diabetes. The advance, announced Thursday, raises the stakes in the political and ethical argument surrounding embryonic stem-cell research.

The team produced 11 stem cell lines from 31 blastocysts using the new procedure, a 10-fold increase in efficiency over their 2004 results. The age and sex of the volunteers donating genetic material did not affect the success rate, but the scientists report lower failure rates using the eggs of younger women (those from females under the age of 30 led to stem cell lines at a rate of one in 13, whereas those from women in their thirties yielded stem cells at a rate closer to one in 30.)

A 2001 executive order [stemcells.nih.gov/policy/NIHFedPolicy.asp] forbids scientists in the United States from cloning embryos to derive stem cells, a procedure known as therapeutic cloning. Several states outlaw human cloning, but no federal human cloning law has made it past the Senate.

With American President Bush’s strong opposition to Stem Cell Research [www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/05/19/stem.cells/index.html] and significant advances made in Stem Cell research [blog.taragana.com/index.php/archive/aiims-pioneers-stem-cell-injection-for-reviving-heart-muscles] in other countries, ahead of USA, the day may not be far off when USA has to even outsource treatment of critical diseases like diabetes and AIDS to other countries.

As it stands now Korean scientists were able to demonstrate that embryonic stem cells can be successfully and efficiently harvested for targeted treatment of diseases. These cells are exact genetic matches for the patients. So effectively they can be transplanted to the patients without any chance of rejection and hence there will be no need for immunosuppresive therapies. The day may not be far off when we can finally see, in our lifetime, cure for diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis and congenital heart diseases.

Source: Wired News [www.wired.com/news/print/0,1294,67575,00.html] & Scientific American [www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=00037B42-0151-128D-815183414B7F0102]