Thursday, August 18, 2005

Using umbilical cords

SCIENTISTS have found a way of deriving stem cells from umbilical cords which may end the need to clone human embryos in an attempt to cure diseases.

The discovery of stem cells in umbilical cord blood with the potential to transform into a wide range of other cell types - in the same way as those in an embryo - could allow scientists to sidestep the ethical issues that surround the creation and destruction of embryos.

The British scientists behind the work have also found a way of multiplying the new cells using NASA technology to ensure there are enough to repair tissue damage caused by injury or disease, such as spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease.

They said the breakthrough could enable doctors to repair liver damage without the need for an organ transplant within ten years. The research team has already managed to create liver tissue in the laboratory.

Pro-life and religious groups have argued that human life should not be created and then destroyed to provide new ways of treating patients, but this method avoids this ethical dilemma completely.

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