A World Stem Cell Foundation that will create and supply new lines of embryonic stem cells for research around the world has been opened in Seoul, South Korea. The project is being led by cloning expert Dr Woo Suk Hwang, who has pioneered the development of stem cells tailored to individual patients.
Critics say using human embryos in research is unnecessary and unethical.
But proponents argue that stem cells taken from embryos offer the best hope of new treatments for a range of diseases and injuries.
Stem cells are the body's master cells, with the ability to become many different adult tissues.
However, embryonic stem cells are the only type which has the ability to turn into any other tissue in the body, reports BBC.
Researchers believe that the cells could one day be used to provide individually tailored tissue and organ transplants, as well as curing maladies such as diabetes and Parkinson's, or to repair severe spinal cord injuries.
"We are still looking ahead to a long road. Our commitment to go on that road is unmistakable, but we have not reached the stage to conduct clinical tests soon, and neither do we have such a plan," he said.
But researchers were now working with actual patients to draw data and samples and would eventually apply their findings in the hospital setting, Hwang said.
"Our work is patient specific," he said, adding working with actual patients came with the added responsibility of trying to accomplish perfection and to be fully open.
Concerns about the ethics of working with human embryonic cells have sparked debate and hampered research in countries such as the United States, but Hwang has stressed that cloning of human embryonic cells used in his research is purely for medical research and not to clone humans, informs Reuters.
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