PORTLAND, Ore., May 15 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've reprogrammed human skin cells to become embryonic stem cells capable of transforming into any other cell type in the body.
Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center said the research holds the promise of replacing cells damaged through injury or illness to treat diseases or conditions including Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiac disease and spinal cord injuries.
The technique uses a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer, which involves transplanting the nucleus of one cell, containing an individual's DNA, into an egg cell that has had its genetic material removed.
The unfertilized egg cell then develops and eventually produces stem cells, a university release reported Wednesday.
"A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells," primate center scientist Shoukhrat Mitalipov said.
"Furthermore, because these reprogrammed cells can be generated with nuclear genetic material from a patient, there is no concern of transplant rejection."
The Oregon technique does not involve the use of fertilized embryos, the researchers said, a topic that has been the source of significant ethical debate.
The researcher is being published in the journal Cell.