March 5, 2024

Foetal skin heals child burns patients

Skin taken from an aborted child has been used by Swiss doctors to create grafts for paediatric burns. In an article in The Lancet, researchers at University Hospital of Lausanne report that they obtained written informed consent from a woman who was to have an abortion on the following day, 14 weeks into her pregnancy. From a 4 square centimetre patch they developed a bank of foetal skin cells and used them to treat 8 children. They found that the wounds closed at just over 2 weeks and no traditional grafts were needed. “Foetal skin cells could have great potential in tissue engineering,” says Professor Patrick Hohlfeld.
 South Korea has cemented its reputation as the premier centre for cloning and stem cell research with the announcement that researchers have cloned the first dog. Dogs have proved very difficult to clone because of their quirky reproductive system. It took a team led by Woo Suk Hwang, of Seoul National University 1,400 laboratory-grown embryos produced with eggs from more than 100 dogs to produce three pregnancies, two live births and 1 surviving puppy. They named the first canine clone, a black, tan and white Afghan hound, Snuppy, for "Seoul National University puppy".

The research was not welcomed by animal welfare activists. "The cruelty and the body count outweigh any benefit that can be gained from this," said a spokesperson for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. However, stem cell scientists were delighted, as cloned dogs could make excellent medical research tools. Stem cell technology might also help to cure dog diseases. "Wouldn’t it be great if the first beneficiaries of stem cell medicine were our best friends?" asked Gerald P. Schatten, an American colleague of the Korean scientists.