China plans ‘hybrid’ embryonic stem cells

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Chinese scientists have revealed that they have transferred nuclei from human cells into rabbit eggs stripped of their own chromosomes. Previously, only one other group — from the United States — had admitted to transferring human cells into the eggs of another species.

The scientists hope to use the ‘hybrid’ embryos to generate embryonic stem (ES) cells for research into regenerative medicine. But so far the embryos created by the Chinese scientists have not developed into blastocysts — the stage needed before ES cells can be isolated from human embryos.

The research has attracted criticism in China, where pressure is increasing to introduce tighter ethical regulation of biomedical research.

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Reference: Nature 413, 339 (2001)