Scientists at California University Also Engaging in Human Cloning for Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 7, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists at California University Also Engaging in Human Cloning for Research Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 7, 2006

San Francisco, CA ( — While Harvard University announced with much fanfare that scientists there will use human cloning for research purposes, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco quietly resumed a human cloning project they abandoned in 2001.

Like researchers at Harvard, the UCSF scientists will use private funding to obtain human eggs from fertility clinics for their studies. Led by Renee Reijo Pera, the research team will attempt to clone a human embryo from the eggs and destroy the days-old unborn children they may create for their stem cells.

Reijo Pera says his team will start with human eggs deemed by fertility clinics to be unable to successfully create a pregnancy. He said that if those eggs proved unsuccessful in creating a human embryo for research, he will seek women to donate their eggs for the studies.

However, egg donations bring up a host of ethical issues, including paying women for their eggs or the coercion of poor women. The egg extraction procedure is significantly painful and comes with a number of potential medical complications.

Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Sun Sentinel newspaper that scientists should not be recruiting women to donate their eggs.

"They could be made sick for what the researchers admit that for many years will simply be a scientific experiment," he said.

Arnold Kriegstein, director of UCSF’s Institute for Regeneration Medicine, says the research team will focus on neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper the university hopes any successful human cloning will result in drug therapies — though embryonic stem cells have yet to create a single cure or treat any patients.

"We see this not only as a window into the mechanisms of disease, but also a platform for drug discovery," he said.

Ultimately, the UCSF team wants to be able to create patient-specific embryonic stem cells.
That was the goal of a team of scientists based in South Korea that used more than 2000 human eggs but failed to either clone a human embryo or create patient-specific stem cells. They claimed to have succeeded on both front but several investigations determined the entirety of their embryonic stem cell research work was fraudulent.

Patient-specific embryonic stem cells are needed for that science to work because patient’s immune systems will reject the cells otherwise. Adult stem cells do not have that problem.

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.