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Harvard Begins Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research - University Will Use Private Funds to Bypass Funding Ban on Cloning - Diabetes Leukemia

June 7th 2006

Harvard Begins Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research - University Will Use Private Funds to Bypass Funding Ban on Cloning

Daley - Melton - Eggan

Researchers from Harvard University have begun experiments using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) to create disease-specific stem cell lines.  It is hoped this research will be useful in developing treatments for a wide range of now-incurable conditions afflicting tens of millions of people.

The school believes this is the first noncommercial effort in the United States to use human embryonic stem cells in a series of experiments whose principle has already been proven in animals.  It is hoped that the research will lead to treatments or cures for blood diseases like leukemia and possibly diabetes.


The Bush administration has banned the use of government money to support human embryonic stem cell research, but Harvard, the world’s richest university, after two years has decided to fund the project privately.

The work will be separated into groups. One group, headed by Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, will focus their efforts on diabetes.  Assistant Professor Kevin Eggan, of the FAS Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, plans to initially work with Melton, but then will begin work on neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - better known as Lou Gehrig's disease.  Comment on this Article at our Forum


Harvard Medical School Associate Professor George Daley of Children's Hospital Boston, has already begun some experiments. Back in 2002 his team demonstrated, in a mouse model, the feasibility of using SCNT to treat immune deficiency.  Daley will now focus on blood disorders.

The researchers will seek to clone embryos using cells from patients with these disorders and then create "disease-specific" colonies of embryonic stem cells that can be used to develop new treatments.  They hope to create the new human stem cell lines from surplus IVF embryos.


The Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) is a unique collaborative effort that includes 99 principal investigators and hundreds of additional scientists in laboratories at Harvard University and at many of Harvard's affiliated hospitals.  They are dedicated to converting science from the laboratory bench to treatments “as quickly as possible”.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers said “While we understand and respect the sincerely held beliefs of those who oppose this research, we are equally sincere in our belief that the life-and-death medical needs of countless suffering children and adults justifies moving forward with this research."

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