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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Keep Your Laws Off My Body, I’m Pro-Cloning

Posted by on July 30 at 12:54 PM

I exaggerated a little bit in that last post about Sen. Frist.

Expanding the pool of surplus fertility clinic embryos for stem cell research, as the current bill would do, is great, but it isn’t tantamount to pursuing a more important type of scientific research: Therapeutic Cloning, or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT). SCNT is the real medically important (and controversial) stuff because it involves cloning. In SCNT, scientists take a cell from a patient and implant its nucleus in an unfertilized egg. The scientists then induce the egg to divide, and when it reaches a few hundred cells, the so-called blastocyst stage, it can be used to derive embryonic stem cells that are genetically identical to the original donor. While this would have fantastic medical benefits, it scares people because it involves the same science used to clone a person. (In other words, what if the scientists didn’t stop at the replicant blastocyst stage?) The FAQ page at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute web site is a great resource on SCNT.

Today’s NYT editorial page rightly praises Frist for his decision to support expanding stem cell research, but they also rightly use this moment to advocate taking the next important step: SCNT, or therapeutic cloning. The editorial concludes:

That is a step forward, but a pathetically small one. The bill would not allow financing for the most promising kind of stem cell research, known as therapeutic cloning, which involves the creation of embryos genetically matched to patients with particular diseases. Even so, the Senate should approve this modest move forward, preferably by a margin large enough to override a presidential veto.