by Steven Ertelt
April 13, 2006
Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — A Harvard University research team says it plans to try to clone human embryos in an attempt to replicate research a team from South Korea falsified in what has become an international scandal. The South Korean team also faked the creation of patient-specific embryonic stem cells.
The Harvard scientists, working with researchers in California, will set out to become the first to actually clone a human embryo. They plan to combine eggs cells from a female donor with DNA provided by other adults.
They then plan to destroy any of the embryos to extract their stem cells for research, a process that kills the days-old unborn child.
Kevin Eggan, a cloning expert and molecular biologist at Harvard, told Bloomberg News that he and other scientists discussed the idea at a stem cell conference last week.
He visited the South Korean lab last year to learn the techniques Hwang Woo-suk and his team developed there. Hwang claimed to have come up with a method to do human cloning using relatively few eggs from donors.
The visit occurred before the scandal and Eggan told Bloomberg that he trusted the now-discredited scientist.
"I would have trusted him with my wallet,” Eggan said of Hwang after meeting him. "He projected this air of expertise and trustworthiness that exists with few people.”
George Daley another Harvard researcher, admitted that the South Korean scandal set embryonic stem cell research back as supposed advances were entirely faked.
"We’re now probably two years behind where we’d hoped to be," he said, adding that now scientists still have no idea how to transplant human DNA into egg cells.
The proposal may run into problems because it may be difficult to get donor eggs to use in the research.
A new Massachusetts law prohibits paying women for their eggs and, before it was enacted, companies that paid as much as $4,000 to women for their eggs had a difficult time securing many to use.
Scientists have previously obtained stem cells from destroying human embryos but they have never been able to clone a human embryos specifically to obtain the stem cells. All of the destruction of human life that has occurred so far has been done with embryos donated from fertility clinics.
Lawrence Goldstein, who leads one of the research teams at the University of California in San Diego, told Bloomberg news that he hopes the attempted human cloning will help scientists find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s.
"We’re suffering from a shortage of rigorous ideas about what’s happening to function in the human brain in these diseases,” Goldstein said.
However, other researchers have admitted that stem cell research will never provide a cure for Alzheimer’s because of the complexity and type of the disease.
Marilyn Albert told AP last June, "I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and for identifying preventive strategies."
Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, says there are more promising efforts to treat the disease than waiting on the decades it could take to see results from embryonic stem cells.