South Korean Scientists Get Stem Cells by Cloning and Killing Unborn Humans

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 12, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korean Scientists Get Stem Cells by Cloning and Killing Unborn Humans

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 12, 2004

Seattle, WA ( — In a move that has pro-life advocates worldwide alarmed, South Korean scientists have announced that they successfully extracted stem cells from human embryos — tiny unborn human beings created by cloning that were killed for research purposes.

The stunning announcement was made Thursday by a team from Seoul National University attending a conference in Seattle and is being reported in today’s edition of the journal Science.

Others have claimed to have success with creating a human clone for use in research, including an infamous Kentucky fertility doctor and a Massachusetts biotech firm, but the scientific community and general public have generally regarded their claims as false since no evidence has been provided.

Pro-life advocates are very concerned by the announcement.

"This is creating new human life solely to destroy it, and in an especially wasteful way," said Richard Doerflinger, a leading bioethicist with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Doerflinger said he was disappointed that many unborn children were killed to advance science.

Others said the destruction of life to benefit embryonic stem cell research makes no sense in light of the failures of such research and the successes in the use of adult stem cells.

David Stevens, M.D., director of the Christian Medical Association, said "we know from animal cloning that the technical problems and dangers associated with cloning will never produce therapies that these researchers speculate could be applied to human beings. Meanwhile, adult stem cells are generating real therapies for real patients."

Jose Cibelli, a cloning and stem-cell researcher at Michigan State University who helped the Korean team verify the findings told Cox News Service that therapeutic cloning has been accomplished in cows and mice, but few scientists realized anyone was close to achieving it in humans.

"When I first saw their manuscript, I almost passed out. This was it," Cibelli told Cox News. "This paper proves that you can take a cell committed to being one type of tissue and make it go back in development. This is the first time it was done in humans."

The Korean team took 242 eggs from 16 consenting women. After removing the genetic material from the eggs, they inserted cumulus cells from the same women into their own empty eggs.

After about five days, the unborn humans had their stem cells removed and were killed. The researchers grew the stem cells into other kinds of cells in a petri dish. After six weeks, the cells became skin, muscle, bone, cartilage and other specific kinds of cells the scientists claim.

CMA’s Stevens concluded, "To duplicate a living human being for the sole purpose of exploitative research and destruction is singularly morally unconscionable. To do so when morally acceptable research–the use of adult stem cells–is already producing tremendous therapies for patients–is unthinkable."