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What is somatic cell nuclear transfer?
Prepared by the International Society for Stem Cell Research

Somatic cell nuclear transfer, also called SCNT, is a technique in which the nucleus of a somatic cell (any cell of the body except sperm cells and egg cells) is injected, or transplanted, into an egg, that has had its nucleus removed. If the new egg is then implanted into the womb of an animal, an individual will be born that is a clone. The clone has the identical genetic material as the somatic cell that was transplanted because the nucleus that carries the genetic material.

This procedure is very inefficient and was first developed for agricultural purposes. However, in human medicine, this technique can be used to isolate embryonic stem cells from eggs that undergo nuclear transplantation. When the somatic cell is supplied from the cells of a person, the stem cells isolated from the developing eggs can be used to make a tissue that will not be rejected by that person, because they have the same genetic material. In this way, 'customized' embryonic stem cells could be made for everyone who needed them.

Example of Research utilizing SCNT cells:

Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research Praises Korean Scientists For New Embryonic Stem Cell Work
Study in Science Magazine Provides Hope to Millions Suffering from Life-Threatening Diseases and Conditions

Washington, DC—February 12, 2004—The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) praised a newly published study in Science Magazine, which reports that Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT or commonly called therapeutic cloning) can yield pluripotent human embryonic stem cells. The paper, to be released today at the 2004 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, describes the development of embryonic stem cells harvested from a human blastocyst produced by transferring the nucleus of a cell into a nucleus-free egg from the same donor. The research was conducted at Seoul National University in Korea. CAMR, comprised of over 80 nationally recognized patient groups, universities, and scientific societies, led the charge to support federal funding of embryonic stem cell research and has led the efforts opposing a ban on therapeutic cloning.

“The goal of this research is to cure patients using their own tailor-made cells,” said Daniel Perry, President of CAMR. “While those opposed to medical research may argue that this work could lead us closer to human reproductive cloning, it’s just not the case. There is a clear, bright line that divides reproductive cloning from somatic cell nuclear transfer and that’s implantation. Without it, no new human life can be created,” he added.

“We call on Congress to follow the common sense conclusion that most Americans have reached—pass legislation that would prohibit reproductive cloning, but allow and encourage this kind of very exciting scientific research,” stressed Sean Tipton, Vice President of CAMR.

Scientists believe embryonic stem cells may hold vast potential in the fight against deadly diseases. The cells, which can replicate themselves indefinitely, may some day be used to grow new tissue that will become the “missing link” needed to cure some of the world’s most debilitating illnesses. SCNT is fundamentally different from human reproductive cloning; it produces stem cells, not babies. SCNT aims to treat or cure patients by creating tailor-made, genetically identical cells that their bodies won’t reject. In other words, developing cures using a patient’s own DNA.

“This is the first study to prove in humans what has already been demonstrated in animal models—that somatic cell nuclear transfer can successfully be used to generate embryonic stem cells. It’s a very exciting advance,” noted Mr. Perry. “While this research is preliminary, it does show what is possible and provides hope to millions suffering from life-threatening diseases and conditions,” he added.