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Scripps Institute Breaks New Ground for Stem Cells

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Aired 4/23/09

Scientists at San Diego's Scripps Research Institute say they've found a way to reprogram adult stem cells to make them work even better than embryonic stem cells.

— Scientists at San Diego's Scripps Research Institute say they've found a way to reprogram adult stem cells to make them work even better than embryonic stem cells. KPBS Radio's Tom Fudge has more.

For many years, embryonic stem cells were considered the gold standard for research and therapy. That's because embryonic cells are able to be turned into any tissue in the body. But Dr. Sheng Ding, of Scripps Research Institute, says a new method of reprogramming adult stem cells may change that equation.

Reprogramming has been done before. But Ding has done it without manipulating the cells' genes, which is risky for patients. He says his reprogrammed cells are acutally preferable to embryonic cells, first, because they don't require the destruction of an embryo, which is controversial.

Secondly, a patient in need of therapy can use his own stem cells, thus avoiding immune response problems.

Ding calls the discovery groundbreaking, Other stem cell scientists say they'll reserve judgment until the process can be reproduced in other labs.

Tom Fudge, KPBS News.

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