Human Embryos Cloned For First Time From Immature Eggs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 20, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Human Embryos Cloned For First Time From Immature Eggs Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 20, 2005

Copenhagen, Denmark ( — Belgian scientists say they are the first to clone human embryos using eggs matured in a laboratory rather than mature donated eggs from women. They say the discovery could overcome some of the problems associated with embryonic stem cell research.

In previous human cloning processes, all of the eggs used to create new human life came from women who donated them for research.

Now, scientists at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium say they have taken immature eggs not for use in fertility treatments and used them to clone human embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them for their stem cells.

"We’ve created an alternative source for human eggs for cloning," Joisiane Van der Elst told researchers attending the meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

In May, researchers in South Korea said they had cloned human beings to be killed for their stem cells, but those scientists used mature eggs harvested from women.

That harvesting presents problems for women and complicates the ability of embryonic stem cell research to ever be able to collect enough stem cells to cure diseases.

Kelly Hollowell, Ph.D., a molecular and cellular pharmacologist and a patent attorney, discussed that problem at a Heritage Foundation conference.

"To treat, for example, the 17 million diabetes patients in the United States will require a minimum of 850 million to 1.7 billion human eggs," Hollowell said. "Collecting 10 eggs per donor will require a minimum of 85 to 170 million women."

Van der Elst said 10-15 percent of the eggs obtained for fertility treatments are too immature to use. Those are the eggs they used in the new cloning technique.

Still, she admitted that the process hasn’t gotten researchers to the point where they could obtain stem cells from the newly created human life. That’s because the embryos died before they were old enough to produce stem cells for scientific use.