Whether you approve of it or not, most everyone has a strong opinion on stem cell research. In the aftermath of the realization in 2006 that one of the top stem cell researchers of the time, Woo Suk Hwang of Seol National University, fabricated much of his data, many wondered if stem cell research would be able to continue unabated.
Today at the 24th annual Conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Dr. Hilde Van de Velde from Vrije Universiteit Brussel reported that his team has succeeded in cultivating human embryonic stem cells from a single cell of a 4-cell embryo with great reproducibility.
Previously, it has been possible to isolate cells until the 8-cell stage of embryonic development, but the cells may already begin to lose totipotency, or their ability to become any type of cell in the human body, at this stage. In addition to the earlier time for intervention, this new technique allows for development of a stem cell line without the use of a secondary stem cell line for co-culture. This reduces the potential for contamination to occur
Creating stem cells from earlier embryonic stages is exciting news for the medical community. There is hope that science can garner these cells to study new disease models using human cells instead of relying on animal research. Importantly, the end goal of stem cell research is to be able to use these stem cells to treat diseases in which the normal cells are failing, such as with degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s or diabetes and with traumas like serious burns or neurological damage.