Human cloning technology grows stem cells

Scientists say stem cells be a source of any of the cells or tissues in a human body.

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So potentially, stem cells could be used to treat diseases by repairing or replacing cells that have been damaged.

 

But this latest development has drawn criticism from those who believe it’s unethical to experiment on human embryos.

 

Greg Dyett reports.

 

The fear among some is that cloned human embryos have the potential to become living, breathing human beings if they were to be implanted in women.

 

Cloning humans, they say, would be morally wrong and something that should remain in the realm of science fiction, something to experience in a book or perhaps a movie like the The Stepford Wives.

 

The 1975 film and it re-makes is based on a satirical thriller written by Ira Levin where photographer and young mother Joanna Eberhart suspects the overly submissive, subservient women in the town of Stepford, Connecticut are actually robots created by their husbands.

 

Her suspicions are confirmed when she stabs one of them and finds there’s no blood to be seen.

 

“I thought we were friends! I thought we were friends! I was just going to give you coffee. I was just going to give you coffee. I thought we were friends. I thought we were friends. I thought we were friends. How could you do a thing like that? “

 

While that form of cloning remains the stuff of fiction, the concerns over the cloning of animals and its ethics are based on fact as the world first saw in the late 1990s.

 

Hello Dolly! “Dolly is the name of the first mammal, yes a sheep ever to be born as the result of cloning. Cloned from and adult sheep, in a laboratory. Dolly is doing fine, thank you, she is seven months old already and from the scientific community to the water cooler, we human beings have had a future, or seen a future at least, that had only been imagined up until now. If a lamb, why not a man? ”

 

The question posed by the late American newscaster Peter Jennings in 1997 is again being asked today in light of this latest development which used methods like those that brought Dolly into the world.

 

Doctor Lyle Armstrong from Newcastle University in the UK provided this explanation to the BBC as to what the scientists in the United States have managed to achieve.

 

“They’ve taken a human egg cell, they’ve removed the genetic material from it and replaced it with the genetic material of one of the skin cells of a human patient and that embryo that they’ve created has developed to the stage where they can extract stem cells from it and grow them in a laboratory.”

Doctor Armstrong says stem cell therapy has great potential.

 

“They (stem cells) can become any of the cells or tissues that we would find in the adult body so, for example, if someone is suffering from a heart complaint we may be able to make new heart muscle cells to replace the dead or dying cells in their body or if they’re suffering from diabetes or Parkinsons disease we may be able to make the cells to replace those or repair those conditions.”

 

The successful cloning of a human embryo was the work of researchers at the Oregon Science and Health University.

 

Their team leader Doctor Shoukrat Matalipov says caffeine played a role in the research.

 

“So we have probably a battery of different drugs which we could use but most of them appears to be very toxic and they would have a side effect and for some reason caffeine is mild, it did the job we wanted but they didn’t do any side effects.”

 

As for the ethical debate, Dr Lyle Armstrong points out that most countries have strict laws against human reproductive cloning and he says what the scientists have achieved in the US is another quite distinct form of cloning.

 

“What has been attempted here is a process called therapeutic cloning which aims to do no more than to make embryonic stem cells but there is also the possibility that if you can make a cloned embryo that you can implant it into a human female and it will grow to become a child and there are very good reasons why we should not do that. Studies in animals have shown that cloning produces malformed offspring so we should not do this with the human species, it would be a great mistake.”

 

The campaign group, Human Genetics Alert is alarmed by the developments.

 

Spokesman Doctor David King says the scientists in Oregon have finally delivered the baby that would-be human cloners have been waiting for: a method for reliably creating cloned human embryos.

 

Doctor King says it’s imperative there be an international legal ban on human cloning before any more research of this sort takes place.

 

He says publishing the research was irresponsible in the extreme.

 

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