Forty-one years after Sir John Gurdon was the first scientist to transfer an adult cell’s genetic material (DNA) into a DNA-less egg (work done in frogs for which Gurdon won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), scientists have successfully removed the DNA from human eggs and replaced it with DNA from mature human cells. The resulting human embryo, for the first time ever, progressed far enough in development to enable the derivation of human embryonic stem cells. The work, done by collaborators from Oregon, Boston, and Thailand and published yesterday in Cell, presents possibilities for the development of stem cells with the exact same genetic makeup as patients to enable researchers to specifically study and treat disease.
One quirky piece of the research is that the scientists found that treating the eggs with a bit of caffeine made the transfer of adult DNA into the eggs more efficient, yielding embryos that developed more typically and from which better quality stem cells were derived.
UPDATED 23 May 2013: This paper has received criticism for the use of several of the same images in various contexts to illustrate different characteristics of stem cells, whether certain experiments where validated by repetition in an acceptable way, and for the quick time from submission to acceptance at Cell. The submission to acceptance time is generally on the order of months. For more about these issues read the piece at Nature and the forum on the open reviewing site PubPeer.