Researchers at the University of Milan claim to have created embryonic stem cells without embryos, leading to hopes that they can be created “ethically”. Their solution is to extract stem cells from parthenotes, embryo-like structures which develop without fertilisation. In humans, these can never develop into true embryos, but they can survive long enough to yield stem cells. The process is unlikely to quench the demand for conventional ESCs. But it could be useful in countries with restrictions on embryo research, such as the US. Australian researcher Alan Trounson said that it was exciting news, but that more work was needed to prove that they were actually ESCs, as they did not display all characteristics as expected.
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