This process involves the nucleus of an egg cell, replacing it with the material from the nucleus of a "somatic cell" (a skin, heart, nerve or any other non-germ cell), and stimulating this cell to begin dividing.
This egg cell is never fertilized by sperm, and the genetic material within the cell is virtually identical to the genetic material extracted from the skin or other cell.
Once the cells begin dividing the stem cells can be extracted 5-6 days later.
By using SCNT, scientists hope to understand how the protein factors in the egg cell cause these already specialized somatic cells to become stem cells. Once we learn how this cell "de-differentiation" occurs, we will no longer need to use egg cells.
Because of SCNT, science could advance to a point where millions of people will have access to life saving therapies developed using their own DNA.
When cells, including donated organs, tissues, or blood, are transplanted or transfused, the recipient's body mounts a rejection response, attacking these cells as foreign. SCNT could allow an individual's own cells to be used to treat or cure that person's disease, without risk of introducing foreign cells that may be rejected.
Other methods of developing and harvesting stem cells may be developed and utilized in the future.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer research is an important subset of stem cell research and could allow researchers to develop stem cell therapies that are specifically tailored to an individual's medical condition and that do not trigger an immune rejection response.