Cloning rights coup for Stem Cell Sciences

By Melissa Trudinger
Friday, 08 March, 2002

Melbourne company Stem Cell Sciences has secured the worldwide rights to use technology for therapeutic cloning developed at the Monash Institute for Reproduction and Development and the Centre for Animal Biotechnology at the University of Melbourne.

The technology, known as Cell Nuclear Replacement (CNR), uses DNA isolated from adult cells and injected into unfertilised eggs. Before the egg undergoes division, the host nucleus is removed leaving the donor nucleus in the cell. The cell can then divide to form the blastocyst from which embryonic stem cells can be isolated. Proof of principle studies were performed in a mouse model.

Stem Cell Sciences sponsored the research.

"By building on the expertise of these leading institutes we were able to demonstrate that embryonic stem (ES) cells could be isolated from adult cells using a newly developed CNR technique," said Stem Cell Sciences, Dr Peter Mountford."

This technology is different to the technology owned by US companies Geron Corporation and Advanced Cell Technology, which both use enucleated eggs to create cloned embryos. Advanced Cell Technology recently announced that it had cloned a human embryo.

Mountford explained that the technology could be used to generate new ES cell lines from patients who carried from genetic diseases. These cell lines would then be used both to examine disease processes and also for drug discovery.

However, due to restrictions on therapeutic cloning in Australia, Stem Cell Sciences will probably have to go offshore to do its experiments. The company has a subsidiary in Edinburgh, Scotland that is able to do certain procedures under license from UK regulatory bodies.

The news followed reports in the Wall Street Journal that Chinese scientists used similar technology to clone dozens of embryos over the last two years.

"We are delighted that the discoveries made here in Australia in the first ever proof of principle of CNR appear to have now been validated in the human system," Mountford said.

"We look forward to scientific publication of the work which must of course undergo the appropriate peer review."

More information: "Isolation of pluripotent embryonic stem cells from reprogrammed adult mouse somatic cell nuclei," Munsie, MJ, et al, Current Biology 2000, 10:989-992

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