Insulin-making cells created by Dolly-cloning method

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The dream of generating a bank of stem cells to treat injury and illness is a step closer. Embryonic stem cells have been custom-made from adult cells without manipulating the cell's genes, a process that could trigger cancer.

Using a similar cloning technique to the one that created Dolly the sheep, two teams have independently shown that it is possible to turn an adult cell into an embryonic stem cell, which can then become any cell in the body.

One team used the technique, called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), to transform skin cells from a woman with diabetes into insulin-producing beta cells that could replace those destroyed by the disease. The approach has the potential to replace many other types of tissue including heart cells, neurons and cartilage. This could spur on treatments for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and liver disease, and repair damaged bones.

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