by Steven Ertelt
April 15, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — A second bioethics watchdog has told LifeNews.com that claims the new announcement of a supposedly easier method of human cloning is hogwash. Yesterday, mainstream media outlets in Britain and the U.S. trumpeted a supposedly new method of making human or animal clones.
The media reports claim the new technique is safer than the one used with Dolly the sheep, that resulted in hundreds of dead embryos and its euthanasia.
Scientists made chimeras by injecting an iPS cell into an existing mouse embryo to create a so-called "tetraploid" embryo.
Two one-cell mouse embryos are fused together to make a single cell and then the iPS cell is surrounded by "tetraploid" cells in a mixture that reforms an embryo structure.
American-based Advanced Cell Technology representative Robert Lanza responded to the new technique saying it is "unethical and unsafe" and making it appear there is a problem with research using iPS cells.
He also said the use of iPS cells makes human cloning an easier process.
Dr. David Prentice of the Family Research Council disputes the claim the process is either new or somehow easier than the somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning method used to clone Dolly.
"I got to thinking about Lanza’s hype claim that iPS cells make cloning and chimeras more likely, or easier," Prentice, a former Indiana State University biology professor, said. "So I went back to the [original] iPSC papers and checked their numbers for mice."
"The short answer is that it’s no easier to clone mice using tetraploids than it is using somatic cell nuclear transfer," he told LifeNews.com.
Prentice, who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kansas, says the latest news only confirms the ability of the ethical iPS cells to be used in the same way as embryonic ones.
"All this highlights is that an iPSC, like any embryonic stem cell, can be re-integrated into an embryo," he said. "The technology has been around for many years, and is routinely used to make transgenic mice. But it’s not efficient.
Despite the "new" cloning process, Prentice says it presents the same concerns for pro-life advocates as using the SCNT method — that resulted in so many deaths creating Dolly and concluded with her euthanasia.
"Doing these techniques would require manipulating and destroying existing embryos," he said.
Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith criticized other comments Lanza made that attempted to undermine support for the IPS cells — hailed by pro-life advocates as an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cell research.
He said Lanza did so because his company is heavily invested in human cloning and embryonic stem cell research and iPS cells are a competitive threat.
"And it turns out this is an attempt to undermine support for iPS cells –perhaps because ACT has a big stake in cloning and embryonic stem cell research — by planting seeds of fear that they will lead to easier reproductive cloning," Smith explained.
"This story is merely yet another example of the press letting Lanza and ACT promote their own PR agendas for their own purposes," he said.
Smith says the solution to the problem of this supposedly new cloning process being used is easy — support a ban on all forms of human cloning. However, Lanza’s firm is one of the biggest opponents of a human cloning ban in the U.S.
"So, let’s not fall for his scheme," Smith concludes. "IPSC research needs to proceed with our full support."