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6-Clones, 2nd ed.

Pandora at Dawn
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Human Cloning

Reproductive Cloning

Better Humans

Allan Watts used to say that the reason Americans  cling to the ideal that ‘All Men are Created Equal,’  an ideal that is obviously wrong, is because if the Americans should learn that all men are in fact, not, created equal, the Americans would not like mankind very much.  The American exaltation of the ‘common man’ is achieved at a price.  If it should turn out the ‘Men are Not Created Equal,’ the Americans would feel disappointed, they would think mankind had let them down.
 
To understand the current controversy involving cloning an analogy may be helpful.  Suppose you grew up in a world that only knew how to produce electricity with hydraulic power.  You would consider it normal for power to be produced in only a few locations.   In such a world there would be a Hoover dam, the Tennessee valley authority, etc., but no big Bertha in Manhattan, no coal or gas or nuclear power plants. 

clone.jpg

You would think of course that towns need to be located near bodies of water where hydroelectric power can be produced.  Of course only a small fraction of the power that could be produced would be produced using only hydroelectric power plants, however, this would all seem perfectly normal to you.

As odd as this world might seem to you this is exactly the present situation without human cloning.  Dr. Teller was our Hoover dam.  Dr. Einstein our Tennessee Valley Authority, and you and  I , one of those little streams in the desert that flow only when it is raining.

Technically human cloning is not genetic engineering nor is it even human engineering.  It is I suppose a form of social engineering. It astounds me that we should even consider throwing away valuable genetic material that has already been proven and tested. For it can be seen that even if we limit ourselves to only one clone per individual per generation, of our few, woefully few, outstanding individuals,  we would very quickly double then triple and then quadruple etc., the number of outstanding individuals in each generation.  The number of proven intellects available in each generation would rise from the current less than three percent to six percent in just the first generation, etc.

If we are dependent on only nature for our outstanding individuals then they will be as artificially limited as electrical power would be if we only allowed electrical power to be produced “naturally,” as in our analogy,  where we only produce power at certain geological formations.

It is a common view, and wrong, that Nature is democratic.  As in the movie Gattaca, the common view is that cloning must lead to a dystopia future which produces only a few “leaders” with the larger mass condemned to lower worker orders.  However, it seems to me that the falsity of this thesis is so obvious that it does not deserve refutation.  Is it not obvious to you that this is the dystopia of Nature?  This criticism is of not the future but the present.

 

Mother Nature has little use for these extremes of intelligence.  It is only because of our ‘unnatural’ development of the knowledge economy that such importance is now placed on this particular feature of our genetic inheritance.   Mother Nature celebrated a much wider range of the genome than our singular focus on the genes associated with a perfect SAT score.  (And for proof  that our focus is against Nature we may be able to point to the increase in autism.  One current theory is that as communities of extreme genetic selection are created, (universities and research parks), the offspring of these colonies of ‘unnatural’ genetic selection are at greater risk of autism.)  Our entire society is increasingly characterized by the anaphase of cell division.  Anaphase is the stage when the genetic material, chromosomes, move to the opposite poles of the dividing cell.

Indeed if I were given to the same incivility as my political opponents I might become vexed with the readers hypocrisy in condemning so vigorously in my arguments what is actually practiced in fact in real life right here and now.  Already in these few paragraphs for example how many times has the reader made private assessments of the author’s I.Q.?  How many times a day does the reader scoff at the hardships being endured by his fellows with lower I.Q.s in Africa, or Asia, or just down the street?  The reader may think his apportionment of intelligence was fair, may even over the course of years have come to think of it as his due, something that was deserved.  Really?  You deserve, you merit, your I.Q.? 

In fact my political opponents will not only speak uncivilly in response to these arguments,  now they will justify their further misconduct by referencing these arguments.  ‘You see?’ they will say. ‘We are right to destroy his life, ruin his chances for employment, harass, and abuse,  why you see?  He is a NAZI!’ they will exclaim.  Indeed Dr. Teller was vilified his entire life by the leftists because they were against the “bomb.”  (Of course they very much appreciated the peace the bomb made possible.)

In reading the obituaries of Dr. Stephen J. Gould I took a strange delight in noting how completely the leftist have taken control of the mass media.  The controversy of Sociobiology had disappeared from our social reality on order of the commissars of  the People’s Media.  Had not Dr. Gould accused Dr. E. O. Wilson of being a NAZI?  And hadn’t Dr. Gould been shown by the success of Sociobiology  to be a demagogue, a partisan,  who sought to politicize Biology? 

 

Was this omission from the obituaries to protect Dr. Gould’s reputation or the reputation of his leftist partisans who control the media as well as the academy? 

 

They have engaged in a decades long fight to suppress Sociobiology, the Bell Curve, I. Q. tests, all standardized testing, research in Genetics, they have vandalized experiments, trashed reputations, sought to remove faculty and students who pursued politically “incorrect” research;  and yet here, upon the death of one of their leading torches, silence.  Why?  Did he go too far in labeling Dr. E. O. Wilson a “NAZI?” Are they ashamed? Regret?  

 

I doubt it.  They know no shame.  They continue to advocate racial quotas long after it has been proven that the standardized tests are not “racially” biased.  Race quotas are still in use even after the People of California have prohibited them for State activities.  I believe that they omitted Dr. Gould’s misconduct from his obituary to hide their own misconduct. 

 

Are they to admit Sociobiology has been proven?  Are they then to admit the genetic basis of our humanity?  Then will they not have to admit that this genetic basis can be measured?  Then what of all that they have built on these decade long denials?  What of their administered race law “solution”:  race quotas?   What would follow from all of these admissions?  Better to depress the delete key and cut all references to Dr. Gould’s “politics.”   

 

 

Compared to all of this; what was the reputation of Dr. Wilson?  And as far as Sociobiology?  Most readers are proles who cares if they understand it?  Better that they should not even know about it.  That way it can not be used by the NAZIS.  And was this not also the attitude towards the Bell Curve?  And what do they have in common?  Genetics.    (It is not random chance that Stalin banned the study of Genetics.  For the left also believes in an “objective” world view.  In their view Genetics was a capitalist trick. It contradicted their “scientific socialist”  “objective”  “reality.”)

 

The Soviets purged all references to Genetics just as the mass media to day in America suppresses the Bell Curve and any reference to the genetic basis of our individual and social organization.  For example, Bill O’Reilly simply says he is going to lie about the Bell Curve.  “We can not say that a whole group of people can not compete because of race.”  (This is O’Reilly’s interpretation of I.Q. and race, not that of the Bell Curve.)  He tells you right up front.  Like an old Commissar he simply will not accept the evidence for “political” reasons, i.e. for reasons of social control.  He does not care how well researched the studies, he has decided the conclusion in advance. 

 

This is why he regularly tells his audience to “work hard” and be “disciplined” and they will achieve their goals.  He says this not necessarily because he believes it, but because he feels he has to speak this way in order to maintain control.   If he were forced to admit to preexisting genetic conditions he does not know how we would be able to maintain control.  (Answer:  Society would just go on as it has --- with the preexisting genetic conditions. Some people have superior abilities.  Some people do not.  Rich man. Poor man. )

 

O’Reilly’s concern for maintaining social control extends to the ecclesiastical as well.  He has dragooned God into the effort of social control.  He explains his philosophy of God, (without crediting Descartes) and then, again straight up without apology, that even if there is no God we need to say there is one because it is important for social control.  I can not imagine a means of destroying religion more efficiently than having O’Reilly becoming his prophet.  O’Reilly, God is manifest.  Open your eyes you prick.

 

Counselor:  Oh, well that’s nice.  So you are God’s champion also?

 

But notice that if it should turn out that we can make O’Reilly see the truth of the Bell Curve and genetics, (or anyway make him admit it publicly, as he has said only that he does not want to admit it publicly), O’Reilly would think that God had let us down.  Why did God make us all different?  Now, recall Allan Watts’ point about the disappointed Americans.  O’Reilly thinks God’s handy work substandard.  Why I.Q.s of 100 (mean, mode, medium) or 85 (one standard deviation below the mean)?  Why did God do that?  Bill O’Reilly wants to know.

 

Allan Watts would say that this is Bill O’Reilly’s problem not God’s.   God is in people with I.Q.s of 85 even if they can not pass the standardized tests for what ever. God does not care about your standardized tests anymore than, as we have explained, does Mother Nature.  Dr. Gould’s objections we have explained. He is a partisan.  But O’Reilly?  Is it because he has such concern for the  sensitivities of those whose I.Q. is less than 125?  Sensitivity from a man who shouts “pin head,” “loon,” “idiot,” “mall people,” etc., etc., at his callers and anyone who disagrees with him?  I don’t think so.  He is the first one to heap scorn and abuse. 

 

The Bell Curve does not say race determines I.Q. but it does allow that there might not be uniformity of “historically underrepresented minorities.”  Allowing “disparate impact” is not the same thing as saying to “a whole group of people that they can not compete because of race.”  And the Harvard trained O’Reilly should know this, certainly does know it, as did the late Dr. Gould. 

 

Then too there is the more personal factor.  If Mr. O’Reilly had to admit that his own success was in part ( Murray and Herrnstein estimate it at 60% )  due to his unearned, undisciplined, unmerited, genetic inheritance, his ego might not be supportable. His egotism of the “self made man” finds genetic inheritance embarrassing.

 

(For readers who are not sure about the science of the  Bell Curve, and have heard some say it is wrong and only a few say it is right, and do not know if it is “the truth” or not, I can offer a simple test.   The entire controversy can be resolved with one question.  Of the two contending groups, one wants to be given access to more data to do more research, and the other group seeks to prevent such access to the data, and wants to prohibit testing etc.   Which group do you trust?  Obviously it is the opponents of the Bell Curve who seek to prevent further investigations.  Just like Stalin they want to ban the subject.  This tells you everything you need to know about the controversy. Currently the academics are preventing scientists from gaining access to college records.  Certainly this data, decades long, and for millions of students would allow for very accurate research.)   

 

What you see in the Bell Curve, in all bell curve distributions of genetic traits; what these distributions are showing you, are outcomes of zillions of possible outcomes.  Three billion base pairs factored.  Not quite factored.  Not every possible combination will live.  Mother Nature has lots of abortions.  Abortions, strange to say, are “natural.”  But still lots of combinations are possible.  Some combinations are “good,” these offset others that are “not so good.”  The combinations cluster around the mean.  A little over half the population is on either side of the mean.  (One standard deviation north and south.)  68% clustered together, straddle the middle. Mother Nature considers this a fine bit of work --- to keep so many of her children all together, see?  All most the same.   

 

The others the rest of the population?  They spread out a little. On the tail ends, north and south.  That is, 16% have "good" combinations that have paired with other "good" combinations.  That is north.  South?   That tail end is not so “good.”  Not so good to the likes of Bill O’Reilly.  God and Mother Nature do not understand this attitude. 

 

They think they have done very well thank you to keep so many together there in the middle like that, thank you very much.  For billions of years they have had no complaints until the likes of Bill O’Reilly came along. Mother Nature does not understand why you think so much in the first place, and place such importance on your little brains.  To her your thoughts are but flashes.  Mother Nature thinks thoughts that take millions of years to play out.  She began the thought “human beings” millions of years ago.  She is still thinking.  What are your puny thoughts by comparison?   

 

Probably we will not find a single smart gene.  Cognitive functioning, like good health, is the result of zillions of base pair combinations, which in a resulting individual results in billions of interactions in the body.  Just your neural networks exchange billions of molecules every second of the day. Hormones, proteins, down to individual electrons, all influenced somewhere in every cell of your body. All influenced by your genetic inheritance.  Under their influence thoughts come and go.  In some individuals  deep richly complex neural networks flow into richer and more complex networks.  From the perfect balance of molecules an idea.  Which leads to another.  Learning is fun immensely rewarding.  More molecules are released by the act of cognition alone, stimulating the development of more complex networks, reinforcing the learning process.

 

A self reinforcing process.  Deeper and deeper in to more complete understanding.  The warm glow of . . . Isn’t this how it is for you darling?  No?   Well, life isn’t fair is it?  No, not fair.  But tell me where in the above paragraph does merit come in?   Again, I ask, I challenge you, from where did you “earn” your I.Q.?  

 

When Human Engineering begins certain sequences of base pairs, in certain groups of individuals, will have been identified.  These sequences will be spliced into the cells of an individual.  Some bodily functions will be improved.  Perhaps oxygen uptake will be increased, or molecules that exist for a instant in time during a synaptic connection will be increased.  Cognition will improve.

 

We do not yet know the immediate social effects.  Will it be easier to raise the I.Q.s of the top 16% because they need only a little cut and pasting to top out?  Or will it be easier to improve the bottom 16% because any corrections will have profound effects?  The answers are not yet clear.  Either way will result in  different social consequences but this is only short term. Long term, the Bell Curve sets out what just a 3% improvement in the average would have on society.  With Recombinant Genetics there may be no limits.  Evolution.

Take note conservatives how easy it is for you to see the hypocrisy of the left but see here in the cloning question that your own hypocrisy, your claim that your own superior intelligence was “deserved,” goes unnoticed, or anyway unaccepted.  You will continue to defend the “free enterprise” system etc., etc., with the idiotic assertion that “All Men are Created Equal,”  despite all evidence to the contrary.  And please let us have no “endowed by their Creator” nonsense.  In this debate you must discuss science or shut up.   It was pure chance that the top 3%, or 16%, or 25% got to be "top."  Certainly Mother Nature does not regard them as eing on top, much less good.  She was trying to put all her children together there in the middle, but, well, some get a bit further away on the ends like, don't you know, isn't that the way with these little creatures?  But don't tell her that those ones are better.  

 

Conservatives;  admission of human inequality does not necessarily lead to world socialism. But it might lead you to some new insights.  Consider, for example, as Murray and Herrnstein pointed out, was our tax code written for people with I.Q.s of 100?  Instead of facing the fact that our government is monopolized by freaks of  Nature who use there unmerited intelligence to exploit the rest of us, conservatives stubbornly and stupidly insist on mankind’s equality. 

 

The truth is that accountants in Connecticut and Washington D.C. screw the rest of us churning the tax code every year so that even people with 150 I. Q. points can not keep up with it unless they too are willing to hire a team of elite school graduates working 60 hours a week reading tax code.  Murray and Herrnstein asked if we could not make society just a little simpler?

 Yes, we could.  But the cognitive elite will not.  Cloning and then Human and then Genetic Engineering are another way of balancing the scales that Mother Nature in her indifference allowed to become so uneven.  And the beauty part is that with cloning we do not have to argue with the cognitive elite.  We just have to do it.  It is doubtful that they would ever agree that a wider distribution of genetic material is a good thing.   

No elite ever willingly gives up its unjust control on power.   Because they know it is unjust they will not relinquish their grasp.  This is why it is unjust, because not merited.  It is only by injustice that control can be maintained. 

I am convinced that the treatment Murray and Herrnstein and their book The Bell Curve received was simply because it was realized that they were pulling back the curtain and exposing the true nature of the hidden power structure.  A small group, the second standard deviation above the mean, 16% of the population, has been placed at the top of the power pyramid not by “merit” but by unfair undemocratic Mother Nature, and they do not appreciate having their secret exposed.  ( Even among the top 25% the pyramid is much flatter than the ones at Keops.  I.Q. Test: Which percentile among the top 25% is the most populous?  Answer:  The 25th.  Which percentile is the next most populous?  Answer: The 24th.  Next? Answer:  The 23rd.  Are you starting to see a pattern? 

For example, most of the students admitted to the University of California, which used to accept the top 12%,  are in the bottom percentile,  the 12th percentile.  The next largest group?  The 11th percentile and so on.  The explanation is that after the 2nd standard deviation the bell curve distribution curve is almost straight down.   The UC system takes in the top 12 percent for purely political reasons.   Most of the students are in the bottom of the class.  However, most of the funding goes to research not education.  The students are political cover for this funding.  The truth is most of them are not going to be going on to their PhDs,  conducting research,  which is the center of a research university.  The truth is most of the students have more in common with the larger society than they do with the productive 3% at the top of the UC pyramid.  But note the prestige conveyed – the power.  The top 25% hold sway over the bottom 75% but do not assume that the top 25% is democratic or uniform.  The distribution of cognitive ability is even more skewed among this group than the population as a whole.)

 

I mean to say dear readers, (those of you who disagree with cloning), you are mostly hypocrites.  You in particular benefit from Nature's mal distribution of genetic material associated with intelligence and you block our attempts to use our technology to change our circumstances.  Thank goodness cloning, and later human engineering, and then still later, (a decade or two, . . . or three from now), full genetic engineering, will not be dependant on the reader’s good opinion, or hypocrisy, as the case may be.  This is not really open to debate.

 

And this is the most important point.  You and your hypocrisy, your viciousness, are irrelevant.   Your silly opinions, full of contradictions and vanity, deliberate delusions, will not stop the movement to genetic engineering, which is to say evolution.  For genetic engineering, of which cloning is but a small first step, is a continuation of 4 billion years of evolution.  You are by comparison a nonentity.  

 

Though cloning is not technically genetic engineering it offers the initial advantage of pre testing.   As I write we do not yet know what exact base pairs in the DNA of Doctor Teller predisposes him to mathematics and  physics.  I do not doubt that with in just a few decades we will be writing our own DNA base pair code.  However, in Doctor Teller’s case I think Nature has done a perfectly acceptable job and there is no reason why we should refrain from copying Nature, as it is the sincerest form of flattery. 

Could we improve on Dr. Teller?  But I can foresee a time when mothers choose their children the “old fashion way,” by cloning, saying, “At least this way you know what you’re getting. Who knows what the genetic engineers will come up with next!"

It is not certain that Dr. Teller’s clone would be as interested in science and mathematics as the original or whether the clone would prefer poetry or architecture. 

Obviously there would be a keen interest in studying the clones.   For this and other reasons I don’t see any reason why several clones could not be introduced in each generation from the same individual.   This would allow for a much faster growth of the population of individuals with special talent.  To prevent the clones meeting one another, at least too early in life during their formative years, they could be distributed to several continents. Later I am sure they would very much enjoy meeting their brothers or sisters and comparing notes on life. 

Michael Krasney:   “What is it with these Gentiles?   They hate us but they love our women?”

Answer:  Because they spoil one.

“My mother told me not to think of myself as being any better than the other students simply because I was good in math and sciences.”  --- Doctor Teller

Well Doctor Teller  .. . ah . . .you understand we were just joking around,  I certainly did not have in mind your dear mother,  I,  ah,  I didn’t mean to say all of  them spoiled  . . . ah,  I was only joking with the boys you understand.  It was those socialists over at KQED, Michael Krasney,   that started it on  . . .  those lines.   Ah, God bless your dear mother sir.

Dr. Teller:   “When I first met Niels Bohr I said, ‘How lucky we are to live at a time when Quantum Mechanics will allow us to understand all paradoxes.’  Niels Bohr responded, ‘Young man I doubt all paradoxes will be resolved.’”

 

 

From the New Ruskin College Project:

“The most recondite problem in Quantum Mechanics is but simple arithmetic when compared to the matchless complexity of even the simplest human interactions.”

Charles Krauthammer:  “Oh, yeah, Molecular Chemistry is easy, Poetry is hard.  Yeah, sure.”

Counselor:  What was that?  Irony?

No, I think that was sarcasm.

Counselor:  Well he needs to talk to some one. 

Well, yeah, obviously, but he is a Harvard trained psychiatrist. 

Counselor:  Oh dear.

Yeah, they think they know everything. 

 
BBC
Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 August, 2004, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Scientists given cloning go-ahead
Cloned embryos
Stem cells would be used to treat diabetic patients
British scientists have been given permission to perform therapeutic cloning using human embryos for the first time.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority granted the licence to experts at the University of Newcastle.

They are investigating new treatments for conditions including diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

The controversial decision could open a new era of research by scientists looking for remedies for diseases.

This is an important area of research and a responsible use of technology
Suzi Leather, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
 

 

The research will take place at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle, involving experts from the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, and the Newcastle Fertility Centre.

Scientists there believe this is the first time such a licence has been granted in Europe, as well as in the UK.

They warn it will be at least five years - if not many more - before patients could receive stem cell treatments based on their work.

But the ProLife Party has said it is considering mounting a legal challenge against the HFEA's decision to allow the research to go ahead.

Support

Therapeutic cloning has been legal in Britain since 2001.

It is carried out for medical reasons. Even though the science is similar, the technique is different to reproductive cloning, which aims to create a human being.

The cloning technique, known as cell nuclear replacement (CNR) involves removing the nucleus of a human egg cell and replacing it with the nucleus from a human body cell, such as a skin cell.

The egg is then artificially stimulated. This causes the egg to divide and behave in a similar way to a standard embryo fertilised by sperm.

No human life should be sacrificed for the benefit of anybody else, no matter how dramatic the promises are
Josephine Quintavalle, Comment On Reproductive Ethics
The eggs used are left over from IVF treatment. They are donated by couples, and would otherwise have been destroyed.

Professor Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle NHS Fertility Centre, who is leading the research said the potential of their research was "immensely exciting".

She added: "Since we submitted our application we have had overwhelming support from senior scientists and clinicians from all over the world and many letters from patients who may benefit from the research.

"This research should give valuable insight into the development of many diseases."

But Professor Murdoch said: "Realistically, we have at least five years of further laboratory-based work to do before we move to clinical trials but this could be reduced if we receive additional funding which would allow us to increase the size of our team."

'Balance'

Suzi Leather, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said an initial one year research licence had been granted after "careful consideration of all the scientific, ethical, legal and medical aspects of the project".

She said: "This is an important area of research and a responsible use of technology.

"The HFEA is there to make sure any research involving human embryos is scrutinised and properly regulated."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association said: "We support strong regulation so that therapeutic cloning to extract embryonic stem cells for life-saving treatment, which most of the public supports, can go ahead while human reproductive cloning, which most of the public opposes, cannot."

But Julia Millington of the ProLife Party, said it planned to take advice over whether it could mount a legal challenge to the HFEA decision.

She said: "It is perverse that, in the current climate of concern for the protection of animals, the HFEA is allowing experimentation on human beings without even a murmur of public opposition."

Professor Jack Scarisbrick of the pro-life charity Life, called the HFEA's decision "deplorable".

"We are all in favour of conquering terrible diseases. But we do not need cloning to do so. Stem cells taken from adults are likely to be just as good, if not better."

Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life group Comment On Reproductive Ethics, told the BBC: "It is very worrying indeed. "We have decisions of this magnitude being taken by an unelected government quango."

She added: "No human life should be sacrificed for the benefit of anybody else, no matter how dramatic the promises are.

Cloning human embryos for therapeutic purposes was made legal by an amendment to the Human Embryology Act in January 2001.

But cloning humans for reproductive purposes remains illegal and is punishable by a 10-year prison sentence and unlimited fines.

 

Japan: Cloning Coming 

Wired News Report

11:32 AM Jun. 23, 2004 PT

A Japanese government panel decided to permit human embryos to be cloned for research, a controversial process that has set off international debate, media reports said.

Supporters of medical cloning say so-called therapeutic cloning studies have huge potential for treating diseases and saving lives. But the issue is contentious, and opponents fear such research could lead to the cloning of human beings.

However, news agency Kyodo said, the panel's decision will not permit cloning for basic research until proper conditions are met, for instance, the creation of a government system to evaluate research.

- END-

 

Japanese Council Approves Human Cloning

Fri Jul 23, 2:03 PM ET

AP-TOKYO - Japan's top science council voted Friday to adopt policy recommendations that would permit the limited cloning of human embryos for scientific research, an official said. The recommendations would let researchers use and produce cloned human embryos but only for basic research, said Tomohiko Arai, an official at the Cabinet's Council for Science and Technology Policy.

 

The council, headed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will now ask Japan's ministries to come up with specific guidelines, said Arai, who declined to speculate how long that might take.

 

Many scientists back human embryo cloning to obtain stem cells that can be used to reproduce damaged tissues or organs. Stem cells are the building blocks from which all organs are formed.

 

Britain and South Korea allow therapeutic cloning, but the United States prohibits any kind of embryo cloning and has lobbied strongly against it.

 

Earlier this month, France's parliament gave final approval to a law that approves stem cell research on human embryos, but only for a limited test period.

 

Japan banned the cloning of humans in 2001.

 

 

 

 

Dolly man applies to use human embryos
(Filed: 29/09/2004)

The scientist who created Dolly the sheep yesterday applied to clone human embryos to aid the development of an effective treatment for motor neurone disease, the devastating degenerative disorder.

Prof Ian Wilmut applied for a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to isolate stem cells from cloned human embryos with the disease.

 
Prof Ian Wilmut

The stem cells, parent cells of all types in the body, would be grown into the nerve cells, the motor neurons, along which the brain sends signals to muscles over distances of up to a metre.

The application was lodged yesterday by Prof Wilmut of the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, with an expert in motor neurone disease, Prof Christopher Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry, London.

MND is a "horrific" illness, said Prof Shaw. "I have seen at least three people in their twenties with the disease in the last year and they died very quickly."

The application was attacked by pro-life groups yesterday but supporters say the research will create "entirely new opportunities" to combat the disease, which kills more than 1,000 people each year.

Prof Wilmut said: "We owe it to the people who suffer from it and are going to suffer from it in the future to try to develop treatments."

Even though the disease was characterised 130 years ago, the mechanisms that destroy motor neurons are not well understood.

Prof Shaw said the use of human stem cells could eventually help cut the use of animals in developing treatments.

Prof Wilmut added that he hoped to have a response from the HFEA early next year and stressed: "We are not talking about producing a baby."

If granted, research could start next Easter. It would be only the second time scientists in Britain have been given the go-ahead to clone human embryos for research.

To date, there have only been modest improvements in slowing MND, said Dr Brian Dickie, director of research from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, adding that yesterday's proposal has "huge potential".

A major development came a decade ago with the isolation of a gene, SOD1, but it is only responsible for two per cent of cases.

Overall, only 10 per cent of cases are thought to be hereditary. The remaining 90 per cent are "sporadic" cases linked to environmental and genetic factors.

There is evidence that motor neurons are killed by the build-up of protein, as also occurs in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, so this work could have much wider implications, said Prof Shaw.

The project has three elements. The team first wants to isolate stem cells from surplus IVF embryos to grow motor neurons.

For comparison, the team then wants to insert the SOD1 gene into the stem cells and grow them into motor neurons to reveal early effects of the disease.

In the third element, the team wants to clone an embryo with the disease, by emptying human eggs that are surplus to IVF programmes and introducing genetic material from a cell from a patient with MND.

From stem cells isolated from the microscopic human cloned embryo at the age of about six days the team will derive nerve cells, including motor neurons, to shed light on the cause of other hereditary forms of the disease.

Stem cells offer "to transform the way we can identify drugs that may be effective," Prof Shaw said.

Using them, up to 100,000 possible drugs could be tested each year at a cost of 10,000 - 20,000. In comparison, tests of one drug on patients take two to three years at a cost of 10 million.

It would require another application to the HFEA to obtain permission to clone embryos for stem cell treatments. "This is very much in the future," Prof Shaw said.

Dr Donald Bruce, director of the Society, Religion and Technology Project in Edinburgh, said: "We don't think anyone should be doing cell cloning research until at least there is a UN ban on reproductive human cloning."

A spokesman for Life, the pro-life group, said similar work could be carried out on adult stem cells. "We hope scientists will be able to discover treatments for all kinds of conditions, including motor neurone disease, but not through the deliberate manufacture and destruction of human embryos."

Publishers wishing to reproduce photographs on this page should phone 44 (0) 207 538 7505 or e-mail syndication@telegraph.co.uk

Human Embryo Clones

AP  Oct. 13, 2004

 

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts -- Harvard University scientists have asked the university's ethical review board for permission to produce cloned human embryos for disease research, potentially becoming the first researchers in the nation to wade into a divisive area of study that has become a presidential campaign issue.

 

"We want to find new ways to study and hopefully cure diseases," said Harvard biologist Douglas Melton, a senior researcher who, along with a colleague, has applied for permission to do the work.

 

Embryonic stem cells are master cells that can form into any tissue of the body. Many scientists believe harnessing them might one day allow tissue regeneration to treat numerous diseases.

 

Harvesting stem cells from embryos kills the embryo, and some argue that it is tantamount to taking a life. President Bush has signed an executive order limiting federal help to all but the existing stem cell lines.

 

Democratic challenger John Kerry supports widespread stem cell research.

The research group asking for a green light to advance its work is one of two teams affiliated with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, a facility set up earlier this year to fund such research.

 

The university is considering all of the ethical and other issues of embryonic stem cell cloning, said Provost Dr. Steven E. Hyman, although he did not know when the university would reach a decision. "We are being extremely careful about this," he told The Boston Globe for a story in Wednesday's editions.

 

None of the proposed experiments involves attempts to produce a cloned person.

So far, only a South Korean team has successfully performed nuclear transfer with human cells. British scientists also have been granted permission to conduct experiments.

 

 

Scientists 'cloned human embryos'

Stems cells extracted to be used for medical research

 

 

Spain gives go ahead for stem cell projects


    February 24 2005 at 06:26PM

Madrid, Spain - The Spanish government has given the green light for four research projects using human stem cells, joining only three other European countries that allow such research.

The government issued a decree late last year allow the research, and on Wednesday the health ministry approved four specific projects.

One of them is led by Bernat Soria, one of Spain's top medical researchers. His project is designed to use stem cells to create insulin-secreting pancreatic tissue to treat diabetes.

Another is designed to help cure Parkinson's, and the last two involve fine-tuning techniques used to transform stem cells into other kinds of cells and tissue.

The new regulations allow use of surplus embryos obtained through in-vitro fertilisation and which have been frozen for more than five years. The parents' approval is needed.

Researchers also need approval from a commission that studies each case individually.

Many scientists believe that stem cells, which can potentially grow into any type of human tissue, may one day be used to treat a series of diseases.

In July 2003, the conservative government of then-Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar authorised the use of embryonic stem cells for research but imposed several restrictions and no research ever got off the ground.

Soria has done pioneering work on rats and developed a technique to cure diabetes in them by transplanting tissue derived from stem cells. He published the research in 2000.

"We have been through exactly five years of ups and downs, including a change of government, but at least we can work in Spain," he said on Wednesday.

Sweden, Belgium and Britain are the only other European countries that allow human stem cell research. - Sapa-AP

 

 

Dolly creator may clone humans
27/02/2005 14:57  - (SA)  

 

London - Britain granted the scientist who created Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal, a licence to clone human embryos for medical research, triggering an outcry among opposition groups.

 

Ian Wilmut from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, dismissing fears that his work would lead to reproductive cloning, said the licence would allow him and his team to study the fatal motor neuron disease (MND).

 

"Our aim will be to generate stem cells purely for research purposes," said Wilmut, who will also work with researchers from King's College university in London.

 

It is only the second time that Britain's fertility body, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, has issued a licence for therapeutic cloning research, which has been legal in the country since 2001.

 

"Human beings have been changing the world around them for a very long time, in general to good effect," Wilmut told a news conference in Edinburgh.

 

"I think that the majority of people support this type of research and hope it will be successful in helping to bring useful treatment for diseases like motor neurone disease," he said.

 

Stem cells

 

Wilmut's team plans to extract stem cells from patients with MND and implant them in unfertilised eggs to create cloned embryos.

 

They will then harvest stem cells from the embryos to grow motor neurones - the long nerves which transmit electrical messages from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles.

The technique will not be used to correct the disease, which is caused by the death of motor neurones and affects about 5 000 people in Britain, but the study of the cells could help to develop future treatments.

 

Wilmut shot to fame in July 1996 when he created Dolly the sheep, the first mammal ever to be cloned from an adult cell. Dolly was put down two years ago this month after she developed a lung disease.

 

Critics of embryo cloning fear that Britain is one step closer to authorising the creation of human clones, but Wilmut dismissed such fears.

 

'Clone and kill'

 

"This is not reproductive cloning in any way. The eggs we use will not be allowed to grow beyond 14 days," he said.

 

"Once the stem cells are removed for cell culture, the remaining cells will be destroyed. The embryonic stem cells that we derive in this way will only be used for research into motor neurone disease," he said.

 

Anthony Ozimic, political secretary of the pro-life group Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, accused the government of granting a licence to "clone and kill" and warned that the next step would be manufactured humans.

 

"Any 'licence to clone and kill' strikes at the very heart our society's basic rule for living together in peace, which is do not kill the innocent," Ozimic said in a statement.

 

"All of those killed are unique, never-to-be-replaced, totally innocent human individuals."

Slippery slope

 

Ozimic denied that there was any difference between therapeutic cloning and reproductive cloning, which is banned in Britain, and feared the government would be pressured to allow scientists to reproduce humans in future.

"It will start a slippery slope," Ozimic told AFP, urging the fertility authority to suspend all licences until the United Nations, which is debating the issue of human cloning, makes a decision.

 

For his part, Wilmut rejected such concerns and said his team would back any decision by the United Nations related to cloning.



 

 

 

British Court: In Vitro Embryo for Cure OK

Posted
April 28, 2005 5:48PM

 

http://www.sci-tech-today.com/news/story.xhtml?story_id=132007GL5GH0

The 2003 case centered on Raj and Shahana Hashmi, who wanted to conceive a baby with the same tissue type as their 6-year-old son Zain, who suffers from a rare blood disorder.

 

British couples can create babies through in vitro fertilization to help cure sick siblings, Britain's highest appeal court ruled Thursday, rejecting a challenge from an anti-abortion group.

 

The Law Lords backed a 2003 Court of Appeal ruling that some couples undergoing the fertility treatment could have their embryos screened to find tissue matches for seriously ill children.

Advocates say the procedure will help save desperately ill children. Opponents fear it could lead to the creation of babies for spare parts.

 

The 2003 case centered on Raj and Shahana Hashmi, who wanted to conceive a baby with the same tissue type as their 6-year-old son Zain, who suffers from a rare blood disorder.

 

The anti-abortion group Comment on Reproductive Ethics challenged the decision.

But the Law Lords -- judges who sit in the House of Lords -- said Thursday that screening to ensure a baby had the same tissue type as Zain could be authorized by Britain's reproductive watchdog, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority.

 

The Hashmi family conceived twice naturally in their attempt to find a tissue match for Zain. They aborted a fetus found to be carrying the same rare blood disorder as Zain and gave birth to a child whose tissue was not compatible with Zain's.

 

Lord Hoffman, one of five Law Lords who presided over the case, said the family could have been spared the ordeal.

 

"There is a way to save the Hashmis from having to play dice with conception," Hoffman said.

 

After the 2003 ruling, the Hashmis had fertility treatment to produce a child with tissue compatible to Zain's, but Shahana Hashmi had a miscarriage.

 

The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority welcomed Thursday's decision. Anti-abortion campaigners LIFE condemned it, saying it went "further down the slippery slope in creating human beings to provide spare parts for another."

 

2005 Associated Press.
2005 Sci-Tech Today.

 

 

 

 

Human babies 'grown in lab'
By Oliver Stallwood, This is London, Metro  (Drudge)
5 May 2005

 

Human eggs which could grow into embryos have been created in a laboratory for the first time, scientists announced yesterday.

 

They were created by scraping stem cells off the surface of ovaries and exposing them to a chemical which stimulated growth.

 

The breakthrough suggests limitless supplies of eggs could be grown, solving the problem of the acute shortage of donor eggs for infertile women wanting IVF treatment.

But the idea has horrified pro-life groups after scientists admitted they could use the technique to 'farm' embryos for their research.

 

The procedure was tested by a University of Tennessee team, which took ovarian stem cells from five women aged 39 to 52.

 

Cells which were treated with a type of estrogen called phenol red grew into healthy eggs.

 

The US researchers say their technique offers hope to cancer sufferers who become infertile through chemotherapy. They also believe  they could extend the fertility of a woman nearing the menopause by between ten and 12 years.

 

Prof Antonin Bukovsky said it offered 'new strategies' for treatment of female infertility.

Fertility watchdogs will have to approve the technique for use in Britain but welcomed its apparent medical benefits.

 

But pro-life campaigner Matthew O'Gorman said: 'The artificial harvesting of eggs is synonymous with the intention to manufacture human beings for research. This is unethical, unnecessary and unacceptable.'

 

 

 

 

The Age of Therapeutic Cloning Dawns

 By Ronald Bailey,  TCS

05-19-05

 

"Humankind has now embarked into the 'Age of Therapeutic Cloning.' This is a scientific revolution of the first rank," asserts Bernard Siegel, executive director of pro-embryonic stem cell research Genetics Policy Institute in a press release. "This is a huge step forward on a par with the first isolation of human embryonic stem cells in 1998," declares, Daniel Perry, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR).

 

Siegel and Perry are hailing the announcement today in Science by Korean researchers that they have created eleven cloned human embryonic stem cell lines that are matched to eleven individual patients.  This achievement comes only 14 months after the same team of Korean researchers led by Woo Suk Hwang created the first cloned human embryo. 

 

The researchers used somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to create these cloned human embryonic stem cell lines. They began with 185 eggs donated by 18 women who produced about 10 eggs per induced superovulation cycle. The researchers removed the nuclei from each egg and inserted skin cell nuclei from each patient into the enucleated eggs.  From these 185 eggs, 129 successfully fused with the skin cell nuclei and 31 developed into blastocysts. Eleven different patient matched human embryonic stem cell lines were successfully derived from the 31 blastocysts. The stem cell lines were derived for both males and females and from patients suffering from juvenile diabetes, congenital immunodeficiency disease and spinal cord injuries.

 

Amazingly, Hwang and his team were able to derive stem cells from 34 percent of the cloned blastocysts which is a higher rate than other researchers have been able to derive stem cell lines from donated blastocysts left over from in vitro fertilization efforts. It turns out that eggs donated by women under age 30 work much better for creating cloned blastocysts. Taking into account only those eggs donated by younger women, the researchers conclude, "We have shown the establishment of patient-specific [cloned human embryonic stem cells] with high success rates, i.e., average rates indicating that each oocyte donation cycle leads to the establishment of one patient specific [stem cell] line." In other words, on average, using eggs from donors under age 30, it is possible to create a patient specific stem cell line per each egg donation cycle.  The researchers note, "These rates of [cloned stem cell] establishment, combined with less than one-year timeframe from skin biopsy and oocyte donation to [cloned stem cells], might be clinically relevant if therapeutic cloning were shown to be of medical value." This means that creating transplantable tissues could take less than a year per patient. 

 

Embryonic stem cells have the capacity to perpetually self-renew and to differentiate into any of the more than 200 different cell types that make up the human body. The goal of therapeutic cloning is to produce tissues and organs for transplantation that are perfectly matched to each patient's immune system. The Korean researchers allowed the stem cells to differentiate into various cell types including skin, nerve, kidney and muscle cells.  The stem cells produced by Hwang and his team are immunological matches for specific patients, and that means that if they were transplanted that they would not cause immune rejection. While this research is a tremendous breakthrough, the researchers hasten to point out that it is too early to consider actually transplanting the cells into patients.  First, because some of the cloned stem cell lines carry the defective genes that led to diabetes and immunodeficiency disease. Second, because researchers still have to learn how to safely and stably transform stem cells into specific cell types, say, pancreatic islet cells to treat diabetes. 


This Korean stem cell breakthrough is certain to be a bombshell in the ongoing political debate over human embryonic stem cell research in the United States. In August, 2001, President George W. Bush limited federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research to those cell lines that had already been derived. He argued that this limitation, "allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life."  So far only 22 stem cell lines that qualify for federal research funding under President Bush's restrictions are available to American researchers. In response to these federal limitations, various privately funded efforts have been launched and in 2004 California voters approved an initiative to create an Institute for Regenerative Medicine that will spend $3 billion on stem cell research over the next ten years.

 

The House of Representatives has twice voted to criminalize precisely this research, proposing to toss therapeutic cloning researchers into prison for up to ten years and fine them one million dollars.  In fact, if this effort to criminalize research on cloned human stem cells were to succeed, Americans who go abroad to seek cloned stem cell treatments, say, to cure their diabetes, could be jailed for up to ten years for illegally "importing" cloned stem cells.  The Bush Administration was also pushing the United Nations to adopt a treaty to outlaw both cloning to produce transplants and reproductive cloning.

 

The Korean announcement is likely to have a big impact on the upcoming vote in the House of Representatives on the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The House Republican leadership has reluctantly agreed to allow a vote on this bill that would lift President Bush's restrictions and permit federal funding for research on all human embryonic stem cell lines derived from blastocysts leftover from fertility treatments. The bill was jointly introduced by Representative Mike Castle (R-Del.) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and now has 202 co-sponsors. There are 23 co-sponsors in the Senate for an identical bill.  It takes only 218 votes to pass a bill in the House.

 

CAMR's Daniel Perry believes that today's Korean stem cell announcement will increase the pressure in Congress to pass the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act.  Genetic Policy Institute director, Bernard Siegel, asserts, "The opponents of embryonic stem cell research will be up in arms, but the public is beginning to recognize that the cloning of stem cells is not the same as cloning babies. The opponents' scare tactics will ultimately fail, as we bring this closer to clinical applications."  Here's hoping that Perry and Siegel are right.

 

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution will be published by Prometheus Books in June. His email is rbailey@reason.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UK's first cloned human embryo announced

 

Scotsman.com  May  20, 2005

 

SCIENTISTS at Newcastle University have sparked a race to find new cures for degenerative diseases after cloning a human embryo for the first time in Britain.

 

The scientists said it was a breakthrough that they hope will eventually lead to successful treatments for diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

 

They announced their important advance as South Korean researchers revealed landmark stem cell research that they claim has brought revolutionary treatments for some of the most devastating illnesses a "giant step" closer.

 

The Korean work opens new avenues to investigate diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's - and the possibility of treating conditions and rebuilding organs without problems of rejection.

 

Fellow scientists have hailed the research as a triumph, but they also stressed that practical stem cell treatments were still many years away.

 

The Korean-led team announced they had created the first embryonic stem cells, genetically tailored to match a group of patients.

 

Professor Woo Suk Hwang, from Seoul National University, who led the team, said at a news conference in London: "This report brings science a giant step forward towards the day when some of humankind's most devastating diseases and injuries can be effectively treated through the use of therapeutic stem cells."

 

The press conference was called to mark the publication of their paper in the journal Science.

 

Embryonic stem cells are "blank slate" cells, obtained from early-stage human embryos, which have the potential to become any kind of tissue in the body. Scientists hope to use them to provide replacement cells as treatments for a host of diseases and conditions, many of which are incurable today.

 

Degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, insulin-dependent diabetes, and spinal cord injuries are just some examples. But the research is controversial - not least because it involves the cloning of human embryos.

 

Every step forward by scientists engaged in therapeutic cloning is said by some to assist mavericks working towards the creation of cloned babies.

 

In Korea, where the new research was based, reproductive cloning is banned by law, as it is in the UK, where a breach can result in a ten-year prison sentence.

 

The Newcastle team congratulated the Korean achievement as they announced they had successfully produced a blastocyst - a tiny, early-stage embryo consisting of a hollow ball of cells - cloned from a human cell using nuclear transfer.

 

Two of the team, Alison Murdoch and Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, said they were "delighted" by the Koreans' progress.

 

"They have shown conclusively that these techniques can be successful in humans," they said. "The promise of new treatments based on stem cell technology is moving nearer to becoming a realistic possibility."

 

Professor Ian Wilmut, from the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, who led the team which created Dolly the Sheep, is also working on therapeutic cloning.

 

He said: "Dr Hwang and his collaborators are to be congratulated for this research because these new observations make a very significant and important step forward toward the use of cells from cloned human embryos for research and therapy."

 

But Pro-life charity Life said the research brought reproductive cloning a step closer.

A spokesman said: "This news from South Korea makes reproductive cloning a clear and present global danger."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embryos cloned from eggs matured in laboratory

20 Jun 2005 13:22:51 GMT

Source: Reuters

 

By Patricia Reaney

 

COPENHAGEN, June 20 (Reuters) - Belgian scientists said on Monday they have cloned the first human embryos from unripe eggs matured in the laboratory, an achievement that could help to overcome a stumbling block in stem cell research.

 

Until now, scientists who have managed to clone human embryos have used donated mature eggs which are in short supply.

 

But researchers at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium have demonstrated that immature eggs that are not suitable for fertility treatments can be grown in the laboratory and then be used to create embryos for stem cell research and therapeutic cloning to treat a range of diseases.

 

"We've created an alternative source for human eggs for cloning," Joisiane Van der Elst, one of the researchers, told a fertility meeting.

 

Stem cells are master cells that have the capability to grow into any type of cell in the body. Scientists believe stem cells could act as a type of repair system for the body.

 

Embryonic stem cells are currently derived from very early embryos left over from infertility treatments. Scientists are also trying to create very early human embryos to mine them for stem cells for therapeutic cloning.

 

In May, researchers at Seoul University in South Korea announced they had created batches of embryonic stem cells from nine patients. They used mature eggs harvested from human females to create the cloned embryos from which the stem cells were derived.

 

Van der Elst and her colleague Bjorn Heindryckx, who presented their research at a meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, said about 10-15 percent of eggs retrieved during fertility treatments are too immature to be useful to patients. Most mature eggs are used for treatments.

 

"The availability of human oocytes (eggs) is a major obstacle at the moment for research into therapeutic cloning. Therefore, we consider this research important because it makes best use of more easily available biological material -- in this case, immature oocytes," said Heindryckx.

 

 

The Belgian scientists said the cloned embryos formed from the immature eggs grew to the 8-16 cell stage, which was too early to extract stem cells.

 

They are continuing their research to try to get the cloned embryos to the blastocyst stage when they can obtain the stem cells.

 

Although they still have a long way to go, the researchers said their ultimate goal is to develop treatments for patients who suffer from infertility.

"Our final goal is to use human therapeutic cloning for infertility treatment by creating artificial eggs and sperm for patients who are infertile because of absence or premature loss of eggs or sperm," Heindryckx said.

 

 

 

Moral Debate: Procedure Risks Making Monkeys More Humanlike

By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
posted:
14 July 2005
02:02 pm ET

The insertion of human stem cells into monkey brains runs a "real risk" of altering the animals' abilities in ways that might make them more like us, scientists said today.

A panel of 22 experts -- including primatologists, stem cell researchers, lawyers and philosophers -- debated the possible consequences of the technique for more than a year.

While the group agrees it is "unlikely that grafting human stem cells into the brains of non-human primates would alter the animals' abilities in morally relevant ways," the members "also felt strongly that the risk of doing so is real and too ethically important to ignore."

In the case of Alzheimer's research, for example, grafting human stem cells into a monkey brain would be designed to reinstate lost memory function, but "we cannot be certain that this will be the only functional result," the report concludes.

There was "considerable controversy" within the group, which disagreed on whether such experiements, some already underway, should proceed.

Uncharted territory

The conclusions, reported in the July 15 issue of the journal Science, reveal that scienists don't know how their monkeying around might alter the intelligence and emotions of animals.

The scientists admit they don't even know what really separates humans from our closest relatives, morally speaking, or how to measure any cognitive changes they might induce in an ape, monkey or other non-human primate.

"Many of us expected that, once we'd pooled our expertise, we'd be able to say why human cells would not produce significant changes in non-human brains," said the report's lead author Mark Greene, formerly of Johns Hopkins University and now a professor at the University of Delaware. "But the cell biologists and neurologists couldn't specify limits on what implanted human cells might do, and the primatologists explained that gaps in our knowledge of normal non-human primate abilities make it difficult to detect changes.

"And there's no philosophical consensus on the moral significance of changes in abilities if we could detect them," Greene said.

The panel's report cites Kant, Mills and the Bible: "Humans are set apart by God as morally speical and are given stewardship over other forms of life" (Genesis I: 26-28).

Studies already underway

Human stem cells are unique cells that can transform into all the parts needed to create a living being. There are different types of stem cells. Brain stem cells in a human fetus, for example, morph into the neurons and all other cells needed to make a mind.

In 2001, researchers first inserted human brain stem cells into fetal monkeys. A controversy ensued over the morality of the procedure, and that flap eventually led to the formation of the 22-member panel.

Other experiments using the technique are underway. The work is largely pointed toward finding cures for Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, and other human afflictions.

The panel concluded that implanting human stem cells into monkey brains "could unintentionally shift the moral ground between humans and other primates."

Similar research has been done with other animals. In one project, scientists plan to inject a mouse with human brain cells. But bioethicists are not as concerned that a mouse could get morals.

"The possibility that human cells might create human-like abilities is much larger in nonhuman primates than in mice," said panel member Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford University and chair of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics steering committee.

Fundamental questions

"Our group struggled with many fundamental questions," said Ruth Faden, director of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins University. "Are there cognitive or emotional capacities that are unique to humans in ways that make us worthy of higher moral status? What sets one primate, including us, apart from another primate, cognitively speaking?"

The report states that the understanding of emotions and smarts of non-human primates is "patchy" and that "data are tricky to gather and difficult to interpret."

The panel members "agreed to disagree" about whether primates should be used for any invasive biomedical procedures, Faden said.

Researchers do not currently insert brain stem cells into human brains. Some in the group questioned whether inserting human cells into monkeys would provide relevant scientific results.

The panel recognized that the possibility of making monkeys more humanlike is an issue that goes well beyond science.

"There are biblical injunctions and secular reflection over the course of centuries, but nothing is certain or universally accepted, either scientifically or morally," Faden said. "Debate is complicated by uncertainty and uncharted territory in all of our fields of expertise. It quickly became clear how little is known."

Part of the group's concern involves the animals themselves.

"A fundamental issue was whether such experiments might unintentionally alter the animals' normal cognitive capacity in ways that could cause considerable suffering," Faden said.

Another issue is whether the procedure is "unnatural."

The group concluded that many procedures in medicine are unnatural but are not necessarily considered unethical. Pig cells have been studied for use in people with Parkinson's disease without moral objection, for example. So they set that argument aside.

Proceed with caution

The panelists concluded that morally significant changes are least likely if the research is done on adult primates as opposed to those whose brains are still developing. Further, abhorrent alterations would be less likely by using primates more distantly related to humans, such as macaque monkeys, rather than closer relatives like apes and chimpanzees.

The group recommends that ethical groups should oversee such work based on six factors:

1.  The number of human cells used compared with the number of cells in the animal's brain.

2.  The developmental stage of the animal receiving the cells (fetus or adult).

3.  The species

4.  The animal's brain size

5.  The site where the stem cells are placed.

6.  Whether the animal's brain was injured or diseased.

"And, to fill in the gaps in our knowledge, proposed studies should measure and monitor behavioral, emotional and cognitive changes," Faden said. "We need to know whether the human cells have an effect on cognition, but right now, the experts aren't even quite sure what 'normal' is for some of these primates."

 

 
Cloning plan poses new ethical dilemma (Drudge)

Scientist courts controversy with call for women to donate eggs


Ian Sample and Donald MacLeod
Tuesday July 26, 2005
The Guardian


Healthy women could be asked to donate their eggs for cloning research in a controversial bid to speed up the development of new treatments for disease, the Guardian has learned.

Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, is to seek permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments designed to shed light on the debilitating condition motor neurone disease.

Until now, cloning experts in Britain have justified their work by using only spare eggs left over from couples undergoing treatment at fertility clinics. The eggs are typically rejects of the IVF process and are routinely discarded if not used in experiments.

The issue raises ethical questions. Many scientists working in the field believe their research is severely hampered because the eggs they use are of such poor quality that they often do not grow into healthy clones. But others believe that asking women to donate eggs purely for research introduces a possible financial incentive that is morally objectionable.

Critics yesterday turned on Prof Wilmut's proposal, claiming it turned human eggs and the women who provide them into commodities. They also warned that any woman considering donating eggs must be fully informed of the health risks before undergoing the lengthy and sometimes painful procedure.

Prof Wilmut, who is in the process of moving from the Roslin Institute, where Dolly was created, to Edinburgh University, told the Guardian that he hoped to get high quality eggs for cloning experiments by asking healthy women to donate them specifically for his research.

In May, a team of scientists in Newcastle announced they had created the first cloned human embryo in Europe and only the second in the world, as part of a project to develop treatments for diabetes. They found that the quality of the eggs was paramount to the success of the experiments.

In an interview with the Guardian, Prof Wilmut, who was awarded a cloning licence in February, said: "I have never doubted that women would donate if they thought we were helping people to have treatment. Our hope and belief is that women who have seen the devastating effect of this disease will be prepared to make such a donation."

The proposal has already caused anger among some religious groups.

Donald Bruce, who heads the Scottish Church's society, religion and technology project, said: "There are already eggs which are available. That a researcher now wants a certain type of egg is starting to turn the egg and women into commodities. They become just a link in a process."

A spokeswoman for the HFEA refused to comment on whether Prof Wilmut's proposal had been received but said that permission would have to be granted by both an independent ethics committee and the HFEA's own licensing group.

There is nothing in the HFEA's guidelines that would prevent, in principle, women donating eggs for cloning research.

"Some women may prefer to give eggs for research than for fertility treatment, because they feel it will benefit far more people in the long run," an HFEA spokeswoman said.

Professor Alison Murdoch, who leads the Newcastle cloning team, said that the shortage of eggs was hampering research and meant that alternatives to those discarded during fertility treatment were needed desperately.

"We're not treating women specifically to get eggs for research, it's part of their fertility treatment and until we have more experience, it's not possible for us to say what is the best way to get eggs. But asking for donations is an issue that needs to be debated," she said.

The potential benefits of collecting fresh eggs from women not undergoing fertility treatment has already been demonstrated by Professor Woo Suk Hwang's world-leading team in South Korea. Having gathered eggs from women who donated eggs purely for research, the team went on to become the first to produce a cloned human embryo and earlier this year reported they had produced tissues from clones tailored to specific patients.

According to Prof Murdoch, the most pressing issue was to ensure that any woman considering donating eggs for research was sufficiently informed of the procedure, its risks and the subsequent use of her eggs, to give considered consent.

Before a woman can donate eggs, she must first undergo a process called ovarian hyperstimulation, which involves a series of hormone injections over several days to make the ovaries produce more eggs than normal. The eggs are then extracted by a surgical procedure. Although ovarian hyperstimulation is carried out routinely at fertility clinics, it is not without risks, and complications can range from abdominal pain and nausea to more dangerous and even life-threatening conditions.

Josephine Quintavalle of the pressure group, Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said concerns for the health of egg donors had prompted the group to draw up a charter on informed consent to ensure the risks are made clear. "There's a growing feeling that women are being exploited. At what point does it become right for a woman to have a procedure which has risks when there is no benefit at all for her?"

"It's no surprise that researchers are looking to fertile women to give eggs because they want them to produce optimum tissues, but there's a danger that researchers are become too gung-ho about this," she said.

Dr Bruce added: "I'm very nervous about this. Altruistic donation has a strong tradition in medicine, but any inducement to donate, whether it's moral or financial, is something we should be wary of.

"If a woman decides of her own free will that she wants to donate eggs, then that is her decision, but as soon as someone offers an incentive, even if it is not financial, it becomes a worry," he said.

A review of donation ethics, known as SEED for sperm, egg and embryo donation, is under way at the HEFA and is expected to report by the end of the year.

The race to produce stem cells

Professor Ian Wilmut, the Roslin Institute scientist famous for creating Dolly the Sheep, was awarded a licence to clone human embryos last February. His team, which is moving to Edinburgh University, wants clones to help study motor neurone disease, a debilitating and ultimately fatal condition that affects 5,000 Britons and kills three each day. Cloning is notoriously difficult and is hampered in Britain by using poor quality eggs discarded during fertility treatment. Prof Wilmut's team is seeking permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to ask women to donate higher quality fresh eggs specifically for his research.

The first British licence to clone human embryos was granted to Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle Fertility Centre and Miodrag Stojkovic, a cloning expert at Newcastle University in August 2004. They want to use clones to develop treatments for diabetes. In May this year, they announced they had created their first cloned embryo, although it only survived for five days and the scientists were unable to extract embryonic stem cells which would be necessary to study the disease. The single clone was produced after the team collected 36 eggs from 11 women undergoing IVF. According to Prof Murdoch, the shortage of eggs for research is severely hindering cloning research and a debate on alternatives, such as egg donors who are not undergoing fertility treatment, is needed.

In 2004, a team of scientists from Seoul University lead by Professor Woo Suk Hwang became the first in the world to create a cloned human embryo. The team was able to extract fresh eggs from women who agreed to give their eggs purely for the project. In May this year, the team asserted their world-leading status by announcing that they had used the cloning process to create embryonic stem cells specially tailored to patients with a variety of different medical conditions, a vital step towards new therapies. The team gathered 185 eggs from 18 women. They are now believed to have created more than 60 clones from eggs taken from donors who give up between 15 to 20 eggs at a time.

Although Chinese scientists have yet to announce the creation of any cloned human embryos, the science has been given the government's full backing. A recent British delegation to visit Chinese labs was staggered by the level of commitment and noted that the country was well placed to exploit US links.


Special report
Ethics of genetics

Explained
08.02.2005:
Embryo cloning

Useful links
How to clone a human - BioFact
Clonaid.com
Humancloning.org
Human cloning - University of Virginia

 
 
 

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