Chinese researchers have managed to create powerful stem cells from mouse skin and used these to generate fertile live mouse pups. (The mouse in our illustration is NOT one of them. Pretty damn cute, though.)
They used induced pluripotent skin cells, or iPS cells — cells that have been reprogrammed to look and act like embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, taken from days-old embryos, have the power to morph into any cell type and, in mice, can be implanted into a mother’s womb to create living mouse pups.
Their experiment, published in Nature, means that it is theoretically possible to clone someone using ordinary connective tissue cells found on the person’s skin, but the experts were quick to distance themselves from such controversy. The thought that the world could see a wave of Barry Manilow clones is too hard to take.
Fanyi Zeng of the Shanghai Institute of Medical Genetics at Shanghai Jiao Tong University put it more conservatively. She said, "We are confident that tremendous good can come from demonstrating the versatility of reprogrammed cells in mice, and this research will be used to. . . understand the root causes of disease and lead to viable treatments and cures of human afflictions.
It would not be ethical to attempt to use iPS cells in human reproduction. It is important for science to have ethical boundaries." And it would not be as much fun, either.