In The City Of The Lion

The first attempt to isolate human stem cells and keep them alive without differentiating into either a fetus or petering out into a jumbled mass like a teratoma took place in metropolitan Southeast Asia. The National University Hospital of Singapore was the right place for the experiment. Located adjacent to the university in a pleasant-looking cubist building, the hospital is a medical school and one of the premier research centers in Asia.

Dr. Ariff Bongso was the right person at the hospital to make the effort. An astonishingly intuitive man who had started out in the field of veterinary science, he had become involved with IVF work in the early 1980s. It was the dedication of researchers like Bongso that has helped make the technology commercially feasible across the globe.

In the early 1990s, he achieved international scientific acclaim by growing IVF embryos on a bed of fallopian tube cells. This improved the embryo's sustainability and increased the odds that the embryos would survive the traumatic transplantation procedure. His extensive work with the newly created human embryos convinced Bongso that he could create lines of cells that could be grown into tissues at a later date for treating disease.

1. While the amount of time that human embryos can be stored and still retain maximum viability is a matter of some debate, most countries set the maximum storage time at ten years.

FIGURE 5-1

Embryos are stored in special vats kept at supercold temperatures with liquid nitrogen.

FIGURE 5-1

Embryos are stored in special vats kept at supercold temperatures with liquid nitrogen.

Dr. Bongso realized that he would need to complete two tasks in order to reach his goal. First, he would have to figure out how to isolate the stem cells hidden away in the blastocyst's inner cell mass. The second, more daunting task would be to sustain the cells' divisions in a growth culture without their differentiating.

He made his attempt in 1994, performing brilliantly at the first attempt and coming to the brink of success on the second. Once he received permission from the hospital's bioethics committee, he obtained twenty-one "surplus" embryos that had been frozen in vats of liquid nitrogen. The embryos came from nine different patients who, having conceived the number of children they desired through the IVF process, had no further use for the fertilized cells.

100 Pregnancy Tips

100 Pregnancy Tips

Prior to planning pregnancy, you should learn more about the things involved in getting pregnant. It involves carrying a baby inside you for nine months, caring for a child for a number of years, and many more. Consider these things, so that you can properly assess if you are ready for pregnancy. Get all these very important tips about pregnancy that you need to know.

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