Scientists at a private US fertility clinic have created embryonic stem cell lines from embryos with genetic defects. Researchers from the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago presented their work at the second annual meeting of the International Society for Stem Cell Research in Boston last week. The embryos were reportedly donated by couples undergoing pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) at the clinic to avoid the birth of a child with a genetic disorder; embryos affected by these conditions would normally be discarded. Twelve embryonic stem (ES) cell lines have been established with a total of seven different genetic defects: myotonic dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, neurofibromatosis type 1, Fragile X and Marfan syndromes, beta-thalassaemia and Fanconi anaemia. These are the first ES cell lines to be derived from embryos with specific genetic diseases; it is hoped that they may be useful for studying the diseases in question and developing new treatments.
Yury Verlinsky, president of the Reproductive Genetics clinic, has said that these and other new stem cell lines will be made available to other scientists engaged in privately funded research. Current restrictions in the US prevents federally funded researchers from using new stem cell lines, limiting them to cell lines in existence in August 2001 when the restrictions came into force. Reproductive Genetics scientists plan to create more cell lines from embryos affected by different genetic diseases.