Washington: Cells taken from men’s testicles seem as versatile as the stem cells derived from embryos, researchers reported on Thursday in what may be yet another new approach in a burgeoning scientific field.
The new type of stem cells could be useful for growing personalised replacement tissues, according to a study in Friday’s issue of the journal Nature. But because of their source, their highest promise would apply to only half the world’s population: men.
Embryonic stem cells can give rise to virtually any tissue in the body and scientists believe they may offer treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and diabetes and for spinal cord injuries.
The testicular cells avoid the ethical dilemma of embryonic stem cells, which are harvested in a process that destroys the embryos. For that reason, some people, including U.S. President George W Bush, oppose their use for ethical or religious reasons.
“The advantage these cells have in comparison to embryonic stem cells is that there is no ethical problem with these cells and that they are natural,” said study lead author Thomas Skutella, a professor at the Centre for Regenerative Biology and Medicine in Tuebingen, Germany.
Using testicular cells isn’t the only promising method that avoids embryos; there have been impressive experiments in reprogramming ordinary body cells into stem cells by slipping certain genes into them.
The new findings and the reprogrammed cells — which still have technical hurdles — “take some pressure off the stem cell issue,” said White House science adviser Jack Marburger. —AP