The discovery, the scientists say, might lead to therapies for a host of human diseases and possibly end the intense national debate over use of embryonic stem cells, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday.
"We have found a counterpart for embryonic stem cells in adult bone marrow. This could negate the ethical concerns," said Mariusz Ratajczak, leader of the research team and director of the stem cell biology program at the university's James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Ratajczak said the next step is to replicate the experiment with similar cells identified in adult humans.
He announced the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology in Atlanta. His team also plans to present a paper Tuesday suggesting the very small embryonic-like stem cells help repair damaged tissue after a stroke in mice.
"It's huge," Ryan Reca, one of the researchers, told the Courier-Journal. "It's an amazing discovery."