Friday, August 1, 2008

The UK is surpassing US research

A third British research team has received the government ok, and funding, to pursue research into hybrid embryos, one that will be half pig and half human but not contain any animal DNA. From The Scientist:
The team plans to use a new technique that, if it works, could provide a well of human embryonic stem cells without the use of human embryos. They will fuse human adult skin cells into empty pig eggs, resulting in embryos with mostly human DNA and some pig mitochondrial DNA. Then, stem cells taken from the embryos will be chemically treated to destroy the pig DNA, which could impair cell function when interacting with human mitochondrial DNA.

The team plans to use skin cells from patients with mutations for heart disease, and hopes to grow the resulting stem cells into human heart cells. The stem cells will not be used to treat humans but to research genetic mutations.

Meanwhile, New Jersey is not getting the state stem cell institute it has been building. After voters chose to not borrow state money to fund the research that would be conducted there, the state has halted construction on the $150 million facility. And though California and Massachusetts are still progressing with stem cell research, an egg shortage is making the future questionable.

Without federal funding and a viable way to obtain materials (i.e. eggs), the United States will be reading about research rather than conducting it.

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