On 24 June, Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute told an international scientific meeting that his lab has fused a human embryonic stem cell to an adult skin cell. Eggan showed that the embryonic stem cell 'reprogrammed' the skin cell's nucleus, causing the skin cell to start behaving like a youthful, embryonic stem cell.
The fused cell can't be used for much - but it is a proof of principle for the future of tools that can change the state of cells. Our cells appear to be finite state machines on a level that scientists are beginning to be able to manipulate. Arrangements of genes and proteins determine how a cell behaves - whether it is a stem cell or a normal cell, for example. As biotechnology and medicine advances, scientists will be able to create stem cells - or any other type of cell required for regenerative therapies - as needed. This is a very worthwhile goal, the development of technologies to form a comprehensive biological repair kit capable of tackling a range of age-related disease and damage.