NEW YORK - In a leap forward for stem cell research, three independent teams of scientists reported Wednesday that they have produced the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in mice using skin cells without the controversial destruction of embryos.
If the same could be done with human skin cells — a big if — the procedure could lead to breakthrough medical treatments without the contentious ethical and political debates surrounding the use of embryos.
Experts were impressed by the achievement.
"I think it’s one of the most exciting things that has come out about embryonic stem cells, period,” said researcher Dr. Asa Abeliovich of Columbia University in New York, who didn’t participate in the work. “It’s very convincing that it’s real.”
'A long way to go'
But he and others cautioned that it will take further study to see whether this scientific advance can be harnessed for creating new human therapies. For one thing, the procedure used to get the mouse skin cells to mimic embryonic stem cells wouldn’t be suitable. And it’s simply not known whether the mouse results can be reproduced with human cells.