The Little Cell that Could

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Some will see it as a first step down the slippery slope to human cloning. Others will be horrified at an experiment that made use of cells from aborted fetuses. But the medical world is excited by a breakthrough in the cultivation of stem cells, the primordial soup of the human race, that was detailed Friday in the journal Science. Nurture stem cells and you can manufacture any one of the 210 types of tissue the body needs to keep running. Heart, lungs, brain partially destroyed by cancer? Grow extra cells to replace what's missing.

"What we can do now is grow a number of different cells, including muscle, cartilage and neurons," said developmental biologist James Thompson, who led the team of scientists at the University of Wisconsin. "We are not talking about making whole organs, but repairing organs." Thatís good news not only for transplant patients, but for people who suffer from Parkinson's and certain forms of diabetes, which begin with the death or dysfunction of a mere handful of cells. Swap them out, and you've got the best form of preventative medicine. Never mind blood or sperm -- get ready for the stem cell bank.