Harvard U. Starts Human Cloning Project for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 6, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Harvard U. Starts Human Cloning Project for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 6, 2006

Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — Scientists at Harvard University are starting a human cloning project that may eventually produce cloned human embryos who will be destroyed for their stem cells. The effort comes on the heels of an international scandal that saw a South Korean teams’ claims to have cloned human embryos proven false.

Though embryonic stem cells have yet to cure a single patient, the scientists hope to be able to do so through the cloning project.

"Our long-term goal is to create embryonic stem cells from a patient’s tissues, correct the genetic defects, and get the repaired cells back into the patients," Dr. George Daley of Children’s Hospital in Boston, a member of the research team, told Reuters.

The cloning process, if successful, would result in the creation of days-old unborn children who would be killed for their stem cells. Pro-life groups oppose the process because it involves the destruction of human life.

Daley said the scientists would start their project by destroying human embryos from a Harvard fertility clinic

"Using an embryonic cell rather than a skin cell will increase the chances that nuclear transfer will be successful, because the nucleus of an embryonic cell is much easier to reprogram than the nucleus of a skin cell," he told Reuters.

Daley said his team has already begun some of the work but declined to discuss what has been done so far.

Harvard Provost Dr. Steven E. Hyman said the university concluded the human cloning was ethically permissible.

Scientists in England and at the University of California, San Francisco are also working on a project to clone a human embryo.

The Harvard researchers say they will use private funds for the cloning project because federal taxpayer funds can’t be used to pay for embryonic stem cell research under an August 2001 executive order from President Bush.

The South Korean team, led by disgraced researcher Hwang Woo-suk, claimed in 2004 to have created the first cloned human embryos. Subsequent probes by the nation’s government, a private firm and Seoul National University concluded the claims were falsified.

The scientific journal Nature, which published a paper Hwang’s team wrote on its supposed cloning work, revoked the paper and said it was not authentic.

Polls show Americans oppose human cloning — for either reproductive or research purposes.

A May poll conducted by International Communications Research found 83 percent said they oppose human cloning to provide children for infertile couples and another 81 percent oppose it to produce human embryos who would be destroyed in medical research.

Opposition to human cloning has risen as the last ICR polls have shown a high of 77 percent of Americans opposing the practice.