Chinese researchers have created powerful stem cells from mouse skin and used these to generate fertile live mouse pups.
They used induced pluripotent skin cells, or iPS cells - cells that have been reprogrammed to look and act like embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old embryos, have the power to morph into any cell type and, in mice, can be implanted into a mother's womb to create living mouse pups.
Their experiment, published in Nature, means that it is theoretically possible to clone someone using ordinary connective tissue cells found on the person's skin, but the experts were quick to distance themselves from such controversy, Reuters reports.
In papers published online Thursday by two scientific journals, separate teams of researchers from Beijing and Shanghai reported that they had for the first time created virtual genetic duplicates of mice using skin cells from adult animals that had been coaxed in the laboratory into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells.
The findings were welcomed by both supporters and opponents of human embryonic stem cell research as a long-sought vital step in proving that the cells could be as useful as embryonic cells for studying and curing many illnesses, The Washington Post reports.
The finding, published in the July 23 issue of Nature, was described during a press conference held Wednesday in London.
"To our knowledge, it's the first time" this has been achieved, said co-researcher Qi Zhou, associate director of zoology at the State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Biology with the Institute of Zoology at Beijing's Chinese Academy of Sciences, Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.