As Australia Vote on Human Cloning Closer, Adult Stem Cell Research Advances

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

As Australia Vote on Human Cloning Closer, Adult Stem Cell Research Advances Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 2, 2006

Canberra, Australia ( — As a vote in the Australian parliament on allowing human cloning inches closer, two leading elected officials announced a new adult stem cell research program that further alleviates the need for cloning.

The federal government announced that studies into degenerative brain diseases without the use of embryonic stem cells will be performed at a new research center.

Health Minister Tony Abbott and Senate Nationals leader Ron Boswell, who oppose changing Australia law to allow human cloning, said the center at Queensland’s Griffith University would dedicated solely to adult stem cell research.

They said the federal government would spend $22 million (AU) on the research.

While embryonic stem cells have yet to show consistent results in animal testing, adult stem cells have already produced treatments for patients with dozens of diseases and conditions.

The center will focus on spinal and brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia and motor neurone disease, according to The Advertiser newspaper.

The announcement comes as the Australian parliament prepares to debate a private member’s bill to overturn the nation’s ban on human cloning. A government sponsored commission review late last year suggested removing the ban on human cloning for research purposes.

Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is sponsoring the bill to lift the current limits.

The laws on the controversial practices are slated to come before the next Council of Australian Governments meeting in May.

The administration of Prime Minister John Howard has not announced an opinion on possible changes to the law, but Australia Health Minister Tony Abbott is arguing that the island nation should keep its regulations. Fresh from a defeat on the dangerous abortion drug RU 486, Abbott says he won’t back down on keeping the restrictions in place.

Abbott, parliamentary secretary, Chris Pyne, and junior minister Santo Santoro are already beginning a lobbying campaign to keep the restrictions.

Australia was criticized in November 2004 for changing its position to support a U.S.-backed proposal at the United Nations calling for a ban on all forms of human cloning.

Howard’s government quietly changed its position to support a coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States and Costa Rica.

In 2003, Australia opposed the treaty and supported a competing proposal pushed by a Belgium and a smaller group of nations to allow human cloning for research.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia was just taking a stand backing up its national law currently prohibiting all forms of cloning.