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HUMAN THERAPEUTIC CLONING:

Developments up to the end of 2001

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Note:

The following news items relate to therapeutic cloning: the creation of pre-embryos in order to extract their stem cells and create a human organ. They are unrelated to reproductive cloning: the creation of a newborn who is an exact duplication of an existing person.

See another essay for U.S. legislative information at the Federal and State levels.

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Cloning news items up to 2001:

bullet1997 - USA: Commission recommended limitations on creating embryos: The U.S. National Bioethics Advisory Commission recommended in 1997 that:
bulletNo federal funds be used for creating embryos as a source for stem cells.
bulletStem cell research use only material harvested from aborted fetuses or from embryos left over after infertility treatments.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health drafted a set of guidelines in 1999 that:
bulletWould allow federal funding of stem cell research only using cells derived from aborted fetuses or from embryos left over after infertility treatments.
bulletWould not allow federal funding for research in methods of extracting stem cells from embryos.

No limitations existed for private research which is not funded by the government.

bullet1998-DEC - Korea: A team of researchers at Kyunghee University Hospital, led by Professor Lee Bo-yeon, claimed that they had cloned a human embryo. However, they offered no proof. Later, a panel of the Korean Doctors Association concluded that the team's records were so poorly kept that their success could not be verified. According to the National Post: "Most researchers doubted the experiment ever took place." 1
bullet2000-AUG-17: England: Recommendation to lift ban: A chief medical officer's expert group recommended that the government ban be lifted on human "therapeutic cloning." In England, limited experimentation using young human embryos is permitted. Therapeutic cloning were seen to not raise "fundamentally new ethical issues." 2  "Government ministers have already indicated that they support...[the proposals]. Members of Parliament will vote on the issue later this year." 2
bullet2000-AUG-29: Vatican: Cloning ban advocated: Pope John Paul II delivered an address to the International Congress on Transplants on . He commented that medical "...methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a view to obtaining organs for transplants: these techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself." 7
bullet2001-FEB-14: USA: President Bush has not yet moved to inhibit embryo research:  While running for election, President George W Bush promised to cancel federal funding of research programs which involves the killing of human embryos, or which uses tissue from aborted fetuses. As of mid 2001-MAR, he had taken no action in this direction.
bullet2001-MAR-29: Canada: Experts push for human stem cell research: According to Reuters: "Canada currently has no guidelines on stem cell research and this has stalled work on a promising medical technique that could one day provide cures for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, leukemia, retinal degeneration and muscular dystrophy."

"Canadian experts recommended that Ottawa should allow some kinds of human stem cell research...The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) -- the government body that funds medical research -- made the recommendations in a set of draft guidelines, which also said strict limits should be placed on stem cell research, including the retention of a ban on cloning humans."

bullet2001-MAY-23: Scotland: Church calls for allowing human therapeutic cloning: The Scottish church's General Assembly called on the government to ban human reproductive cloning and to pursue a world-wide ban. The Assembly accepted the Board of Social Responsibilityís call to legalize reproductive cloning by recognizing: "that human embryos created by cell nuclear transfer may be used in medical research and therapy, subject to the 14-day limit".
bullet2001-JUL-30:  USA: House subcommittee approved bill to ban therapeutic cloning: A sub-panel of the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill sponsored by Representative Dave Weldon (R-FL). It would ban all human therapeutic cloning for both reproduction and therapeutic research. It would provide for up to ten years in prison and up to $1 million in fines for persons who attempt to clone a human being. The Import of cloned embryos would also be banned. 3 The Biotechnology Industry Group, which includes almost 1,000 member companies opposes human reproductive cloning, However. they wrote that therapeutic "cloning techniques in research are integral to the production of breakthrough medicines, diagnostics and vaccines."  Their bioethics counsel, Michael Werner, said "Cloning for research purposes [could] open the door to the development of cures ... for unmet medical needs like diabetes, stroke and diseases of aging. Cloning is the way we can figure out how to turn valuable insights from stem-cell research into products that are transplantable into patients."

A second bill, sponsored by Representative James Greenwood (R-PA) would ban the implantation of a therapeutically cloned embryo in a woman's womb to produce a baby, but would allow the creation of cloned embryos for medical research and the development of single organs.

More details on these, and similar, bills
bullet2001-JUL-30: Europe: Status of therapeutic cloning in the UK and the rest of Europe: Currently, therapeutic cloning of humans is banned in 29 European countries, but is permitted in the UK for research purposes. In 1991, the UK Parliament established the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, which licenses both fertility clinics and research institutions that study embryos. To date, the agency has allowed 118 embryos to be created for research purposes -- none yet for therapeutic cloning. However it has the authority to approve that form of cloning. "In the past decade, 925,747 [embryos] have been created and more than 50,000 babies have been born; 294,584 embryos have been destroyed and 53,497 have been used for research." 4  If therapeutic cloning is banned in the U.S., there would probably be an immediate "brain drain" of American medical researchers to the UK.
bullet2001-NOV-25: USA: Company successfully produced human clone for therapeutic purposes: Advanced Cell Technology, a biotech company in Worcester, MA, announced that they had produced an embryo with human DNA which had grown to the six-cell level. The company's chief executive officer, Michael West, told NBC's Meet The Press that if the embryo had been implanted in a woman's womb, it might have developed into a newborn. However, the technology will be used only to generate stem cells for research. Mary Ann Liebert, publisher of the online journal e-biomed, said: "New technologies are frequently controversial and I think people right away think 'Oh my God, we're going to clone a human being,' but that is not what this is about. It will be sad and tragic if this does not go ahead." 5   Mr. Bush told reporters, "The use of embryos to clone is wrong. We should not as a society grow life to destroy it. And that's exactly what's taking place." 6

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References:

  1. "Did South Korean Doctors Clone Human Embryo?," Global Situation Report, 1999-FEB-10, at: http://www.gsreport.com/
  2. "British experts back cloning," 2000-AUG-16, at: http://www.7am.com
  3. Todd Zwillich, "House subcommittee approves ban on human cloning,"  at: http://www.reutershealth.com/
  4. "Embryo, stem cell research moving full bore in Britain," New York Times, at: http://new.omaha.com/
  5. Tom Arnold, "Embryo research raises issues of morals, ethics: Laws on human replication lagging behind science," National Post (Canada), 2001-NOV-26. See: http://www.nationalpost.com/
  6. August Gribbin, "Senate to debate cloning penalties," Washington Times, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/
  7. Pope John Paul II, "Address to International Congress on Transplants," 2000-AUG-29, at: http://www.cin.org/pope/organ-transplant-cloning.html 

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Copyright ©1997 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-AUG-5
Last updated 2004-FEB-13

Author: Bruce A Robinson

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