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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 16:51 GMT
Cloned cells boost health
ACT cloned cattle
The cattle had stronger immune systems
Scientists believe they are a step closer to being able to use cloning technology to cure arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

Researchers in the United States say they have transplanted embryonic stem cells into cattle.

They say the technique has significantly boosted the cattle's immune systems.


If this approach works in humans, it could not only be used to treat cancer and immunodeficiencies, but to 'reboot' the immune system in patients with various autoimmune diseases

Robert Lanza, ACT
The scientists suggested their findings could pave the way for similar work in humans.

They believe that strengthening the immune system could help the body to beat a range of serious conditions.

Calf embryos

The researchers, who work at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, cloned old cattle.

They then extracted stem cells from the calf embryo. These cells are regarded as the body's master cells.

The stem cells were then transplanted back into the cattle.

The researchers found that the cells were able to travel through blood throughout the cow's body.

They were also stronger than the cow's original cells and helped to strengthen or 're-boot' their immune systems.

The researchers said the cells could help to fight off a range of serious conditions in humans, which are triggered by a damaged immune system. It could also fight cancer.

"If this approach works in humans, it could not only be used to treat cancer and immunodeficiencies, but to 'reboot' the immune system in patients with various autoimmune diseases," said Robert Lanza, medical director of ACT.

"There are over 40 autoimmune diseases in humans, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile diabetes, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and dozens of others."

Stem cells are already used to treat patients with some of these diseases. They are usually extracted from the bone marrow of a close relative.

However, patients are required to take powerful immune-suppressing drugs to prevent their body from rejecting the cells.

Effective treatment

This latest technique could provide an easier and more effective alternative.

"The ability to regenerate an aged or defective immune system without the need for drugs, tissue matching or the risk of graft-versus-host disease would have important implications for medicine," said Dr Lanza.

"For instance, an injection of new immune cells might prevent elderly patients from dying of pneumonia."

The UK government approved a limited form human cloning for therapeutic research earlier this year.

In comparison, the US government has been accused of holding up research after a government decision to refuse federal funding for such studies.

The results were presented at the annual conference on regenerative medicine in Washington.

See also:

12 Oct 02 | Scotland
31 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
20 Jan 98 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


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