Embryonic stem cells made without embryos

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Two groups of researchers have developed a breakthrough method to create stem cells that behave like embryonic stem cells -- without using embryos.  The feat was accomplished by inserting four genes into ordinary skin cells.  The genes are believed to have reset the cells' developmental clock to an early, embryonic-like stage.

While the discovery was welcomed by both embryonic stem cell critics and proponents alike, scientists cautioned that work on stem cells derived from embryos will need to continue.   The new cells' true potential is promising, but untested.  There is also the issue of safety, as one of the genes used to reprogram the skin cells is know to be associated with certain cancers.

The research teams are from Japan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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