A major scientific breakthrough in stem cell research was today revealed by Lothian experts in a move that could lead to huge advances in medical treatment. For the first time, scientists from Roslin have managed to create new stem cells from a clinically unusable human egg.

In the long-term, the development could have major implications for research into illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease and diabetes as well as offering hope to infertile couples.

Until now, eggs used in research that failed to fertilise - and could not develop into a viable human embryo - were routinely discarded. But with a major shortage of embryos available for research, today’s announcement means these eggs could now still be used to produce embryonic stem cells.

Stem cell researchers can study diseases and develop new treatments, such as drugs for the prevention of illnesses like cancer.

Because of their potentially unlimited capacity for self-renewal, embryonic stem cell therapies have been proposed for regenerative medicine and tissue replacement after injury or disease - although to date, there are no approved medical treatments.

Funding to support the work carried out by Roslin Cells and the team in Manchester was provided by the UK Medical Research Council.

Roslin Cells was established last year with initial funding of £1.7 million from Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, with support from Edinburgh University and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.

Link [news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=961032007]