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Mature Human Embryos Created From Adult Skin Cells
In the new work, the team took skin cells -- some from Wood's arm and some from an anonymous Stemagen investor -- and fused them to eggs from women who were donating their eggs to help infertile women. About one-quarter of the resulting clones, or five in all, developed into five-day-old blastocysts.
Wood said the key was that his lab is directly adjacent to a fertility clinic with which the company has an arrangement, so his team obtained the eggs within an hour or so of when they were retrieved from the women's ovaries.
And although researchers are typically given the poorest quality "leftover" eggs from fertility patients, donors in this experiment -- and the women for whom those eggs were intended -- agreed to give away several of the best eggs because, in each case, they had far more than were needed.
"They are the heroes in this," Wood said. "Think about it. You're spending $25,000 [trying to get pregnant], and you're giving some of those eggs away."
Under California law, egg donors cannot be paid for their service.
DNA tests proved definitively in one case, and less clearly in two others, that the embryos were indeed clones. Results could not be obtained from two of the embryos.
R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, said the approach is attractive because the egg donors were not subjected to the medical risks of ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval just for research.
"The protocol entailed no marginal increased health risks to the egg donors, as they were already undergoing hormonal stimulation for non-research purposes," Charo said.
Asked what it was like to look at embryos that were replicas of himself, Wood said: "I have to admit, it's a very strange feeling. It is very difficult to look at an embryo and realize it is what you were a few decades ago. It is you, in a way."