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Cell Prolif. 2008 Feb;41 Suppl 1:20-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2008.00485.x.

Parthenotes as a source of embryonic stem cells.

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Laboratory of Biomedical Embryology, Centre for Stem Cell Research, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.


The derivation and study of human embryonic stem cell lines, despite their potential therapeutic usefulness, raise considerable ethical, religious, legal and political concerns because it inevitably leads to the destruction of viable embryos. In an attempt to bridge the division between ethical questions and potential scientific and medical benefits, considerable efforts have been devoted to the search for alternative sources of pluripotent cell lines. In this review we discuss the use of artificial parthenogenesis as a way to create entities, called parthenotes, that may represent an alternative ethical source for pluripotent cell lines. We describe the biological differences between parthenotes and embryos, in order to provide a rationale for the discussion on whether their use can be acceptable as a source of stem cells. We present data derived from animal models on the extent parthenogenetic stem cells are similar to biparental cell lines and discuss these aspects in the context of their extension to the human species. Finally, we present experiments recently carried out in our laboratory that allowed us to generate human parthenotes through artificial activation of human oocytes and to use them as a source for the derivation of parthenogenetic pluripotent cell lines.

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