Researchers Fuse Skin and Stem Cells

Aug 22, 4:20 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Harvard scientists announced they've discovered a way to fuse adult skin cells with embryonic stem cells, a promising and dramatic breakthrough that could lead to the creation of useful stem cells without first having to create and destroy human embryos.

Members of the research team were to discuss their findings Monday. Preliminary results of the potentially groundbreaking research were disclosed Sunday on the Science magazine web site.

The scientists said they were able to show in their early research that the fused cell "was reprogrammed to its embryonic state."

"If future experiments indicate that this reprogrammed state is retained after removing the embryonic stem cell DNA - currently a formidable technical hurdle - the hybrid cells could theoretically be used to produce embryonic stem cells lines that are tailored to individual patients without the need to create and destroy human embryos," said a summary of the research reported on the Science site.

That could lead to creation of stem cells without having to use human eggs or make new human embryos in the process, thereby sidestepping much of the controversy over stem cell research.