New harvesting techniques are crucial to successful stem cell research because they provide greater opportunities to treat diseases in a more unique case-by-case basis. They also provide ways to overcome challenges with current techniques as well as extending stem cell therapies to diseases that may otherwise have been untreatable by current therapies. Perhaps even more important they offer a possible solution to the ethical conundrum that continues to plague stem cell research.
Altered Nuclear Transfer
Altered nuclear transfer (ANT) may make it feasible for stem cells to be removed from embryos without destroying the embryo itself in the process. This could offer a way out of the current ethical dilemmas surrounding embryonic stem cell research. Normally, embryonic stem cells have been obtained by growing a human embryo into a cluster of cells that contain an inner cell mass. It is the inner cell mass that is abundant in the embryonic stem cells; after this inner cell mass is removed, the embryo is ultimately destroyed.
Traditionally, embryonic stem cells were harvested by destroying the human embryo in a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). A somatic cell is simply a body cell that is neither an egg nor a sperm cell. In this procedure, the nucleus is removed from a somatic cell and it is then implanted into a donor egg that first had its nucleus removed. The egg cell is essentially fooled into thinking it has been fertilized. It has its own DNA and after stimulation, it divides just as a normally fertilized egg would, before forming an embryo. Cells from the inner cell mass are extracted and cultured to provide embryonic stem cells but the technique destroys the embryo. This process has, of course, generated much debate because the embryo could potentially have become a living person.
ANT, however, prevents an embryo from actually being created. The nucleus of the somatic cell is altered, or genetically reprogrammed, prior to being transferred into the egg. The alteration consequence is that the somatic cell DNA still produces stem cells but does not generate an embryo.
This technique is one potential way around the ethical concerns that result from the destruction of an embryo. It is performed on a two-day old embryo, following the division of the fertilized egg into eight blastomeres, or cells. Previously, the techniques used for harvesting involving the derivation of embryonic stem cells at a later developmental stage, when the embryo is made up of approximately 150 cells. When these cells were harvested, the embryo was destroyed.
It was found that embryonic stem cells could be extracted from blastomeres, which thus avoids the destruction of the embryo. The cell could be triggered to divide and the resulting stem cells could still be used for research and disease treatment.Further strengthening the research for this technique is the fact that in fertility clinics, the blastomere is already often removed for diagnostic tests to detect genetic abnormalities. The embryo, now with only seven blastomeres can still be implanted into the mother, assuming no defect has been found. These embryos then grow into healthy babies.
Neither ANT nor blastomere extraction are perfect techniques but they do appease many of the ethical concerns surrounding stem cells and can pave the way for new techniques that may one day treat a disease that afflicts you or a loved one.
Hello, Mr. Murnaghan . I was wondering if it was possible to get in contact with you to conduct an interview based on this topic. I am currently making a project on stem cells and how they can be extracted from embryos for regeneration and was wondering if you would be kind enough to spare some time to help provide me with more information on this topic.
DWright - 23-Dec-16 @ 2:39 PM
Johanna - Your Question:
Thank you for your very informative reportI was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008My lymphh nodes was infiltrated as wellI had chemotherapy and radiotherapy 2009 and in 2010 had new nodules taken coming out witch was tested positive again. I was put on a homone supression tablet but started complaining about skeletal pain. I had numerous bone scans and reports said I have severe deterioration of my neck and spine areas.In 2012 I went for a pet and bone scan. I was diagnosed with multiple bone metastasesAnd skin metastases. I was put on affinitor of witch I was extremely allergic to and had to stop. I then received radiotherapy again.To no avail. The bone and skin metastases just grow more and more and got more agressive. I went to Germany for extensive immune therapy for one and a half year. In Jan this year went for a pet scan again it was again more severe. I was put on chemotherapy again and my immune system fall dangerously. I went for a pet scan again in August. The cancer progressed a lot more and got very aggresive. The cancer also metastasized to my lung lymph nodes Aorta lymph nodes and other lymph nodes.I am on tratment know from Pheizer and my immune system is know so low that my oncologist wants to stop.I have got advise that I can have immune stem cells made for me from my own body cells so that My Ummune ststem will not be in danger. Firstly on my chritian values I am worried about.2ndly It have never been done and therefore there is no data of any bad or good about this. Can you perhaps reply on this? I will appreciate?
I am sorry to hear of your illness and the excessive treatment you have had to undergo as a result. We really only have the Cancer UK information, link here which can give you more information on stem cell treatments for cancer. Stem cell transplant means that you can have higher doses of treatment. So there may be more chance of curing the cancer than with standard chemotherapy. However, I see you are in NZ and as we are a UK-based site, we only have information on UK-based treatments. We wish you the best of luck in your search.
ExploreStemCells - 17-Oct-16 @ 2:24 PM
Thank you for your very informative report
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008
My lymphh nodes was infiltrated as well
I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy 2009 and in 2010 had new nodules taken coming out witch was tested positive again .. I was put on a homone supression tablet but started complaining aboutskeletal pain.. I had numerous bone scans and reports said I have severe deterioration of my neck and spine areas..
In 2012 I went for a pet and bone scan.. I was diagnosed with multiple bone metastases
And skin metastases. I was put on affinitor of witch I was extremely allergic to and had to stop.. I then received radiotherapy again..
To no avail...
The bone and skin metastases just grow more and more and got more agressive... I went to Germany for extensive immune therapy for one and a half year..... In Jan this year went for a pet scan again it was again more severe.. I was put on chemotherapy again and my immune system fall dangerously.. I went for a pet scan again in August ... The cancer progressed a lot more and got very aggresive... The cancer also metastasized to my lung lymph nodes Aorta lymph nodes and other lymph nodes....I am on tratment know from Pheizer and my immune system is know so low that my oncologist wants to stop...I have got advise that I can have immune stem cells made for me from my own body cells so that My Ummune ststem will not be in danger ... Firstly on my chritian values I am worried about...
2ndly It have never been done and therefore there is no data of any bad or good about this.. Can you perhaps reply on this? I will appreciate?
Johanna - 16-Oct-16 @ 5:47 PM
I'm glad there are alternate ways of extracting stem cells from embryos now without harming the growing life inside. Perhaps the long controversy of stem cells can come to some sort of a close?
raxacori - 20-Sep-16 @ 2:26 PM
I am so please that alternative methods have been discovered for stem cell harvesting. As a Christian, I fell a lot better on this subject now that there is a way to not harm the tiny human being.
Bakhita - 11-Jan-16 @ 3:20 PM
this site is very useful and will really help me prove my point on my cloning debate in class.
small - 21-Mar-15 @ 11:28 PM
I like this web site because I'm in biology so I use it for finding about cells
timberwolf - 18-Mar-15 @ 7:31 PM
Wow this is extremely useful! I definitely hope that the research is continued as there could be so many possibilities from this!
fishy - 30-Oct-14 @ 6:13 AM
This is an amazing website to learn about stem cells.