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09 Jan 2012 2 Comments

All about Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer ( SCNT )

Researchers are trying to prove that it is possible to use a cloning technology called somatic cell nuclear transfer, or SCNT, to make embryonic stem cells that match a patient’s DNA.

Here is how it works:

A somatic cell is taken, and the nucleus discarded.

An egg cell is also taken and the nucleus removed. The nucleus of the somatic cell is fused with the egg cell.

In a cloning process this new cell is implanted in a surrogate mother and the cells divide, making a blastocyst, and then an embryo is formed.

This process of SCNT is now being used in stem cell therapy. Using this process, embryonic stem cells can be transplanted to replace damaged cells in patients without rejection by the immune system. Here’s the catch though – Scientists have failed to get these cells to grow and divide beyond a very early stage in humans and other mammals.

Another school of research suggests that the genetic material from the host egg is not removed. The nucleus from the somatic cell is simply added. Surprisingly, these constructs have developed till the blastocyst stage.

The pros and cons of SCNT are many. The process paves way for a clearer understanding of cell lines and provides an opportunity to study the genetics of certain diseases. Nevertheless, somatic transfer is the first step to cloning. And this comes with various moral and ethical concerns.

Many, who are not opposed to embryonic stem cell research, have advocated for strong regulation of SCNT to “preclude implantation of any derived products for the intention of human reproduction, or its prohibition.”



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