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UW scientists report progress in stem cell research

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists report more progress with the new type of stem cell research they pioneered 13 months ago.

A team led by neuroscientist Clive Svendsen used the new cells to create a disease in the lab dish - showing step-by-step how the disease progresses.

The adult stem cells have the same characteristics as embryonic cells - and both were pioneered by UW scientist James Thomson.

Svendsen's team used the new cells to examine spinal muscular atrophy, one of the most common genetic causes of infant deaths.

For the first time, Svendsen said the paralyzing spinal disease can now be studied close-up in the lab.

That was never possible in the past, because the cells involved in the disorder cannot come from patients until they're dead and there are no animal disorders that have a close resemblance.

Scientists elsewhere have simulated other diseases using the the new adult cells Thomson discovered.

But Svendsen is the first to show how the disease process works.

Other scientists say the field is moving faster than ever and Thomson's discovery from last year has made a big difference.