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Cloning

Author(s): Joseph G. Marx, PhD

Embryonic Stem Cells Can Become Any Tissue in the Body

Once a fertilized embryo begins cell division, it eventually forms a hollow ball of cells called a blastocyst. The cells in the inner layer of the blastocyst at this stage of development still are not specialized and are capable of becoming any cell type in the body. They are referred as stem cells.

Stem cells can be removed from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst and plated into a petri dish. Stem cell cultures grown in the laboratory may be used to generate specialized, differentiated cells. Natural chemicals, such as proteins, are added to the stem cells to mimic the chemicals the inner cell mass would be exposed to in its normal environment. By adding the natural chemicals in the correct sequence, scientists are potentially able to program stem cells to become any kind of cell needed to treat a given disease, disorder, or damaged tissue.