My Own Stem Cells

Unlike this cat, my future clone won’t
grow beyond a few hundred cells.

Last blog I talked about lucky IVF kids who will get to have their own personalized embryonic stem (ES) cells one day. So in the future they'll have cells to help treat their diabetes. Or Alzheimer's. Or Parkinson's. Or...

And all of this will be done without fear of rejection because the cells will have the patient's DNA. Well, what about the rest of us? I want some too.

I needn't worry. Scientists are working hard on getting me my own ES cells. How do you get embryonic cells from an old timer like me?

One way is by cloning. No, not like the old Michael Keaton movie. Scientists instead will only grow my clone for a few days in a dish before taking its (his?) ES cells. They won't let the embryo grow into a baby.

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Here’s how the process will work:

First they'll get a donor egg and take out the DNA. Then they'll take a nucleus from one of my cells and put it into the egg. Or simply fuse the two cells together. Then they will do something and the "fertilized" egg will divide and make ES cells that have my DNA.

My future clone.

Finally they will tweak the ES cells into growing into the cells I need. And then I will be cured!

You may have noticed the vague "something" and "tweaked." These are the parts scientists haven't worked out yet. But they will. And when they do, they'll be cloning me to get my own personalized ES cells.

Just when you thought ES cells couldn't get more controversial, now they're going to clone people to get them. Scientists will create an embryo to destroy it for my benefit. And some people will look at this as me allowing for my identical twin to be created and destroyed to help treat my illness.

So depending on your point of view, this leap is either a very good thing (I won’t have to worry about Alzheimer's). Or a very bad one (bye bye brother).

Dr. Barry Starr is a Geneticist-in-Residence at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA.