Researchers continue to find new ways to harvest stem cells from adults without the ethical wrongs associated with harvesting embryonic stem cells. Nature Methods describes one recent breakthrough.

The first successful production of stem cells from adult skin cells took place in 2007, but the technique had a low success rate in converting the skin cells to stem cells. It also took a long time (several weeks). Furthermore, it employed a virus to transform the cells, which led to worries about cancer formation.

Now a team at the Scripps Research Institute has developed an improved procedure that uses chemicals instead of viruses to produce stem cells. The process is two hundred times more efficient and is twice the speed of the older system.

The new technique should propel further research in efficient stem-cell production, without the need for embryos.

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