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Archived Comments for: Identification and isolation of embryonic stem cells in reproductive endocrinology: theoretical protocols for conservation of human embryos derived from in vitro fertilization

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  1. Non-viable embryos as a source of human embryonic stem cells

    Mina Alikani, Tyho-Galileo Research Laboratories and Monash University

    4 July 2006

    Commentary on Sills et al., Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 2005, 2:25.

    Human stem cell research is clearly an area of major importance, not just in modern biology, but in ethical and political debate, worldwide. The question of sources of human embryonic stem cells is at the epicenter of the debate, particularly in the United States, and hence valid new ideas or concepts in this regard are anything but trivial.

    In this publication, Sills et al. note the possibility of “blastomere donation from non-viable embryos” as one of two “novel” approaches which would “allow progress in [embryonic stem cell research] that would not damage or destroy extant human embryos.”

    They write:

    “It is the salvage of any normal blastomeres within a "dead" embryo that holds particular promise for human ESC research. Specifically, if embryos classified as non-viable and unsuitable for transfer or cryopreservation were disaggregated (rather than discarded) and plated as single totipotent blastomeres as described above, then the possibility exists that at least some karyotypically normal cell colonies could develop and serve as a reliable human ESC source.”

    However, the record shows that in a peer-reviewed article published in 2002 in Reproductive Biomedicine Online, Alikani and Willadsen [1] were the first to point to viable cells from non-viable embryos as an alternative source of stem cells that, as we wrote, “does not require the creation of new embryos or the destruction of existing viable embryos.” We demonstrated, by experimentation in the human, that some of the surviving blastomeres obtained from non-viable human embryos maintained their development potential and regulatory capacity, gave rise to cells that were chromosomally normal, and contributed to the formation of normally organized blastocysts when aggregated. Our experiments entailed disaggregation of non-viable embryos, isolation of apparently viable cells from the disaggregated embryos, and re-aggregation of those cells (in a chimaeric form). We stated that our experiments were based on two key observations in the human, one of which was the limited ability of the surviving cells from non-viable embryos to undergo division and cavitation in isolation.

    Sills and co-workers were aware of our work but chose to ignore it.

    Mina Alikani

    Tyho-Galileo Research Laboratories, West Orange, NJ 07052, USA and Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia



    1. Alikani M, Willadsen S: Human blastocysts from aggregated mononucleated cells of two or more non-viable zygote-derived embryos. Reprod Biomed Online 2002, 5(1):56-58.

    Competing interests

    None declared