Embryos

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To date, only a handful of laboratories worldwide have been able to derive human stem cell lines. This may be due in part to the quality of the embryos available for research and stem cell derivation. During assisted reproduction treatment, good-quality embryos are used in fertility treatment of the patients requiring treatment. Often the second-grade embryos are frozen for later patient use, and only then will the poorest-quality embryos that would not have been used for patient fertilization be donated for research [Pickering et al., 2003].

An alternative approach to obtaining high-quality embryos is the use of embryos screened for known genetic disorders with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). PGD can be used to diagnose, with a high degree of certainty, embryos containing monoallelic genetic disorders and often relies on the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA from a single cell obtained from in vitro fertilized (IVF) eggs when they are at the 8-cell stage [Braude et al., 2002]. If affected and then donated for research, PGD embryos can thus provide a source of high-quality but genetically mutant embryos for the derivation of disease-specific cell lines.

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