MIT Stem Cell Research Scientist: Harvard Should Reconsider Human Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 13, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

MIT Stem Cell Research Scientist: Harvard Should Reconsider Human Cloning Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 13, 2006

Boston, MA ( — MIT stem cell research scientist and James Sherley, a Harvard alumnus, says the Ivy League college should reconsider its decision to engage in human cloning for research purposes. Sherley wrote an editorial in the Boston Globe newspaper saying the decision is wrongheaded.

Harvard University announced new efforts last week to use human cloning to create human embryos for destruction for research. Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers will lead the two projects, which were approved by a bioethics review committee.

Sherley says that members of the review board "must have finally succumbed to their scientists’ propaganda for the grand future of human embryo cloning research."

He says there is a "vast gap between promises from human embryo research and scientific reality."

"In particular, there is more awareness that embryonic stem cells, whether derived from natural human embryos or cloned ones, cannot be used to treat diseases in adults or children," he explained.

"[P]igs will grow wings and fly before this approach leads to successful medical therapies," he says

"It is not too late for Harvard’s review board members to come to know this simple truth and revoke the school’s entry into the race to clone and exploit human embryos for research," Sherley added.

Sherley says Harvard University can still pursue stem cell research but that it doesn’t have to involve the use of human cloning.

"Indeed, [HSCI] will have greater impact by focusing on animal embryonic stem cell research and adult stem cell research, which do not require similar moral and ethical trespasses," Sherley concludes.

Dr. George Daley of Children’s Hospital in Boston, a member of the research team, said the scientists would start their project by destroying human embryos from a Harvard fertility clinic. His team has already begun some of the work but declined to discuss what has been done so far.

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.

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

The Harvard human cloning effort comes on the heels of an international scandal that saw a South Korean teams’ claims to have cloned human embryos proven false.

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.

Related web sites:
Sherley’s op-ed