More Human Embryos Destroyed in Grisly Human Cloning Experiments

Bioethics   |   Rebecca Taylor   |   May 2, 2014   |   12:01PM   |   Washington, DC

On the heels of the announcement that researchers were able to clone two adult men and destroy those cloned embryos for stem cells, another group funded by the New York Stem Cell Foundation has published research where they cloned a woman with type 1 diabetes.
NBCNews reports:

Scientists have used cloning technology to make stem cells from a woman with Type 1 diabetes that are genetically matched to her and to her disease.

humancloningThey hope to someday use such cells as tailor-made transplants to treat or potentially even cure the disease, which affects millions and which now has few treatment options other than careful diet and regular use of insulin….

The technique they use is called somatic cell nuclear transfer — the same method used to make Dolly, the sheep who was the first mammal to be cloned, in 1996. Scientists remove the nucleus from a normal cell, clear the nucleus from a human egg cell, then inject the nucleus from the skin cell into the egg.

Various chemical or electrical tricks can be used to start the egg growing as if it had been fertilized by sperm. In this case, they used DNA from a woman with Type 1 diabetes, and they said they used an improved method to trick the egg into developing.

It got to what’s called a blastocyst — a ball of cells that has not yet begun to differentiate into the different types of cells and tissues in the body, such as nerve cells, blood cells and bone cells. They removed individual cells and used various chemical baths to direct them to form into the desired cell type — the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin and that are destroyed in diabetes.

Let’s be clear what was made and destroyed here. The article says a “blastocyst” so most people’s eyes will gloss over, their brains will turn off and they will ignore what is really going on. A blastocyst is an early embryo, a human being. Every single person on this planet at one time was a blastocyst as well.

Cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) creates a cloned embryo. In this case, they destroyed that embryo for her parts.

This quote reinforces that fact that it is past time to outlaw all cloning in humans in the United States even for research purposes:

“I think this is going to become reality,” Dr. Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, whose report is published in the journal Nature on Monday, told reporters. “It may be a bit in the future but it is going to happen.”

Do we really want to be creating masses of cloned human beings to be spare parts farms, putting thousands of young women at risk for the eggs that are needed for cloning, when we can already make tailor-made embryonic-like stem cells from simple reprogramming techniques that do not require eggs or embryos?

Make no mistake, no matter what researchers say, cloning will not stop in the lab. I agree with both Gregory Pence and President George W. Bush that to think that is will not end in reproductive cloning is naive:

“Anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies.”
–Former President George W. Bush

“Scientists are naive to think they can ban reproductive cloning and go ahead studying embryonic [therapeutic] cloning”
–Gregory Pence, Ph.D., bioethicist and cloning advocate

A total ban on asexual reproduction in humans, which would include, but not be limited to, SCNT, is desperately needed to protect both nascent human life and young women from being exploited for their eggs.

Many people think that a partial ban on just reproductive cloning is good enough. As Bush and Pence pointed out above, it is not. Not only would legislation banning only the implantation of cloned embryos for reproductive purposes allow cloning to continue, but such a law would mandate that cloned embryos be destroyed for science. It would also give us a false sense of security that we “did something” about cloning when really it would be window dressing. Cloning would continue, becoming more and more efficient, and likely those cloned embryos will still end up in female volunteers. After all, some people see cloning as one of their “reproductive rights”:

“My decision to clone myself should not be the government’s business, or Cardinal O’Connor’s, any more than a woman’s decision to have an abortion is.  Cloning is highly significant.  It’s part of the reproductive rights of every human being.”
–Randy Wicher, cloning activist

Do we really want to leave the legality of cloning up to the misguided notions we have about “reproductive rights”?

I certainly do not.