Somatic nuclear transfer has been performed with frogs since the early 1960s, yet it has proved impossible to generate an adult frog using an adult cell as nuclear donor. After some initial skepticism, the birth of sheep, cows, goats, and mice using this technique with fetal or adult cell donors is now established fact. The success with adult mammalian cell donors extends the historic work in frogs by attesting to the totipotency of nuclei in at least some adult, differentiated cell types. Because the technique offers a developmental read out of the totality of genetic and molecular lifetime changes accumulated by the nucleus of a single somatic cell, basic research applications are seen in the fields of ageing, cancer, X chromosome inactivation, and imprinting. The prospect of a method for gene targeting in livestock holds particular promise for commercial applications; whilst for humans, the use of nuclear transfer to provide diverse populations of customized stem cells for therapeutic purposes presents a tantalizing future goal.
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