In The Field

Advancing embryonic stem cells

At ASRM George Daley gave this morning’s plenary lecture to a dense crowd. He talked about the growing relationship between embryonic stem cell research and reproductive medicine and discussed the promise of embryonic stem cell research for basic discovery and, cautiously, for human health. But he made a point about the many complaints often voiced about the fact that ‘no cures have come’ from embryonic stem cell research, flagging this year’s Nobel prize winning scientists for the development of knockout mice.

Perhaps not everyone considers the relationship between embryonic stem cell research and the hundreds of disease models that have been created thanks to its role in the development of knockout mice, but it’s worth noting. Daley went on to discuss some interesting research in the wings in which his group is collaborating with Brigham and Women’s Hospital IVF clinic to gain access to discarded eggs, discarded 3 day embryos and discarded 5 day embryos. He’s been able to develop several embryonic stem cell lines from the discarded 5 day embryos. The 3 day embryos have proved harder to translate. These so-called poor quality embryos could be a good source for deriving human embryonic stem cell lines for research. That said, it did take 2 years to get IRB approval for the process.

As for the eggs, following on his recent discoveries that fraudster Woo Suk Hwang actually did achieve parthenogenesis and derivation of an embryonic stem cell line from human eggs, he’s begun looking into ways of identifying women that might provide through their eggs, sources of histocompatible stem cells for therapeutic purposes in the future. Some research has shown that if stem cell lines can be derived that are HLA homozygous, just a few stem cell lines could be banked and be largely compatible with a wide range of patients.


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