Chicago In an effort to correct a misunderstanding about a study that described a way of creating embryonic stem cells while sparing human embryos, officials at the journal Nature said this week they plan on changing the paper to make it more clear that all of the embryos used were destroyed.
The move comes after news outlets across the world reported last week that a research team at Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology Inc. had succeeded in growing stem cells without destroying embryos in the process.
In reality, the Nature paper proposed that such a process could work, based on the research team's unprecedented success in developing stem cells using single cells taken from early embryos. But none of the embryos from which the team harvested cells was left intact.
"The fate of the embryos isn't obvious" in the paper, said a Nature spokeswoman.
Although the study's main findings are unchallenged, she said the journal may modify the study abstract and a potentially misleading diagram.
In the study, the research group took four to seven cells from 16 human embryos, then tried to grow stem cells from each individual cell. The researchers said this was to maximize the number of cells they could test and improve the chances of obtaining stem cells.
Having proved the method, the scientists hope to show they can make stem cells from intact embryos that have had just one or two cells removed.
The clarification "doesn't change the scientific point of the paper," said study leader Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology.
Yet in interviews last week, Lanza did not make it clear that none of the embryos in the study survived stem cell extraction.
One reason for the misstatements was a Nature news release that inaccurately said the embryos were left intact, a mistake the journal corrected Aug. 25, after the study came out.