An Australian team on a shoestring budget claims that adult stem cells harvested from the nose can morph into every kind of cell in the body. Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, of Griffith University in Brisbane, says that olfactory stem cells have all the advantages of embryonic stem cells and none of the disadvantages. They can be easily harvested, will not be rejected by the immune system and will not form tumours. Nor do they pose the ethical conundrums posed by the use of stem cells harvested from embryos. The research has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Developmental Dynamics.
The discovery was immediately hailed by Catholic Cardinal George Pell, of Sydney, as potentially “an enormous contribution” which would allow scientists to sidestep the use of embryos. The Catholic had partially funded the research with a A$50,000 grant. However, the chief scientific officer of the Australian Stem Cell Centre, Dr Stephen Livesey, said that it would advance scientists understanding of the properties of embryonic stem cells.
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