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Timeline for stem cell research

The last 10 years have seen a huge increase in research into stem cells, but when did it all begin?

1956

First successful bone marrow transplant between a related donor and recipient is performed by Dr E Donnall Thomas in New York. The patient, who has leukaemia, is given radiotherapy and then treated with healthy bone marrow from an identical twin.

1960

Researchers discover bone marrow contains at least two kinds of stem cells – blood or haematopoietic stem cells that form all the types of blood cells in the body and stromal stem cells that form bone, cartilage, fat, and connective tissue.

1960

First research report to indicate that the brain may generate new nerve cells is published, but not widely accepted.
Get information sheet: Stem cell therapy – a bird-brain idea?

1968

British scientist Robert Edwards and his student, Barry Bavister, became the first to fertilise a human egg in the test tube. This is the beginning of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) technologies.

1968

First bone marrow transplant for non-cancer treatment. Dr Robert Good uses a bone marrow transplant to treat an eight year old boy with severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID). The donor is an HLA-matched sister.

1973

First bone marrow transplant between unrelated patients. A five year old patient in New York with SCID is treated with multiple infusions of bone marrow from a donor in Denmark.

1978

The first IVF baby is born in England.

1978

Blood stem cells are discovered in human umbilical cord blood.

1981

Mouse embryonic stem cells are derived for the first time from the inner cell mass of a mouse blastocyst and grown in vitro.

1984-1998

Pluripotent stem cells are isolated. When exposed to retinoic acid, these cells differentiate into neuron-like cells and other cell types.

1989

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is developed – a method where a single stem cell can be removed from an IVF embryo and tested for inherited diseases.

1990

Bone marrow donor programme initiated.

1990

Dr Thomas receives the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on bone marrow transplants.

1995

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin derive the first embryonic stem cells from non-human primates.

1998

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin, led by James Thompson, isolate and grow the first stem cells from human embryos. The embryos used in these studies were created by IVF.

1999

Researchers discover that stem cells can be made to differentiate into different cell types.

2001

President George W Bush permits federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but only on the 64 existing stem cell lines.

2004

Researchers in South Korea claim to be the first to clone a human embryo and then harvest the stem cells for research. The research is later found to have been fabricated.

2004

California becomes the first state in the USA to provide its own fund for embryonic stem cell research.

2005

George W Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research are loosened.

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