They want to extract embryonic stem (ES) cells after creating human embryos containing DNA from patients with diabetes or neurodegenerative disease, according to Nature magazine.
The report said the project aims to find out whether and how these diseased ES cells behave differently from healthy ones, in order to learn what goes wrong as conditions develop and perhaps find new ways to treat them.
The work, the report notes, is highly controversial since human embryos are discarded in the process, and American researchers are banned from using federal research money for such studies.
The announcement also comes at a time when political restrictions on human ES cell work are becoming a hot issue in the run up to the US elections in November.
Due to intense interest, Nature reports, researchers say that it took more than two years of review by eight committees to gain regulatory clearance for their work, which is paid for by private donations.
Because 'these are indeed extraordinary times,' the researchers decided to start their project rather than wait until they had peer-reviewed results, Harvard University provost Steven Hyman was quoted as saying.