German scientists said Friday they had developed a “pioneering” method of extracting stem cells from the human body that could render obsolete the controversial practice of harvesting the cells from embryos.

Researchers at the Frauenhofer Institute and the University of Luebeck succeeded in extracting cells from human and rat glandular tissue that have similar properties to embryonic stem cells, the institute said in a statement. Researchers said they took cells from a 74-year-old person and a rat that were extremely stable, and easily multiplied them and conserved them by freezing.

“An easily accessible source for the extraction of highly potent stem cells has been discovered, in almost any vertebrate but also in the human body, regardless of sex and age,” the institute said.

Stem cells are master cells in the body that have the capability to transform into new cells or tissue.

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