"Astounding and elegant" was how Robert Bazell described the research that kicked off NBC's newscast. It has the potential of defusing--or "could be a big step in that direction"--the impasse around stem cells between pro-lifers, who object to using cells from human embryos, and biotech researchers, who claim that harvesting embryos offers the greatest promise. A team of young scientists from Austria and Germany is working on stem cells at MIT, Harvard and UCLA. Using laboratory mice, they claim to have engineered a cell that is identical to an embryo by extracting just four genes from a cell of skin: "That modified skin cell can even grow into sperm and eggs to make an entirely news mouse." Bazell estimated that the team is "years or months" away from trying the same experiment with human skin cells. A major hurdle is that "this gene transfer can cause cancer."
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