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Published: Monday, 10/4/2010

UM team creates line of human stem cells


DETROIT - University of Michigan researchers have created their first human embryonic stem cell line and one of only a handful in the nation made without potential contamination from other animal material, the lead scientist said Sunday.

The work was made possible by a 2008 Michigan constitutional amendment that lets scientists create embryonic stem cell lines using surplus embryos slated for disposal by fertility clinics, the university said.

The new stem cell line, called UM-4-6, is one of about 76 known to have been created nationwide and the first in Michigan, project leader Gary Smith said.

The line itself should be useful to researchers at the Ann Arbor school and elsewhere, Mr. Smith said, particularly because no animal products were used in its development.

That increases researchers' confidence that nonhuman protein material isn't skewing the findings, he said.

In addition, the success gives Michigan researchers confidence in their ability to develop embryonic stem cell lines that carry genetic illnesses such as Huntington's Disease and diabetes, he said.

Embryonic stem cells can become virtually any tissue in the body, and scientists say they believe the cells could one day lead to treatments for Parkinson's disease, spinal-cord injuries, and other serious illnesses.

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