Photo credit: Pedro Mera/Xinhua Press/Corbis
By Reuters in New York
Scientists for the first time have generated a type of embryonic stem cell that carries a single copy of the human genome rather than the usual two, a development that could advance research in gene editing, genetic screening and regenerative medicine.
Derived from a female egg, the stem cells are the first human cells known to be capable of cell division with just one copy of a parent cell’s genome, according to a study appearing in the journal Nature.
The breakthrough is expected to reduce the complexity of identifying genetic abnormalities, which in turn could advance understanding of many diseases, researchers said.
Human cells are considered diploid because they inherit two sets of chromosomes, 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. Reproductive egg and sperm cells are known as haploid because they contain a single set of chromosomes. They cannot divide to make more eggs and sperm.
“What is fundamentally new is we have cells that can divide and renew with a single genome. That is just unprecedented,” said Dieter Egli of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, co-author of the study with Dr Nissim Benvenisty of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.