HUMAN THERAPEUTIC CLONING:
Developments during the year 2003
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.
Cloning news items during 2003:
||2003-JAN-21: USA: Anti-cloning demonstrators
arrested: Members and supporters of the Christian Defense Coalition
organized a sit-in as part of a protest to draw attention to Senate
Majority leader Bill Frist’s statements to the press that he would not
push for a ban on human cloning. Thirteen were arrested. 1
||2003-JAN-29: USA: President opposes all cloning: President Bush, in
his State of the Union speech, called for a banning of both reproductive
and therapeutic cloning. 2
PA: Researchers coax stem cells to produce eggs: Hans Schöler and
his team at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, have been
able to coax stem cells from an mouse embryo to develop into a group of
cells. This might lead eventually to a method by which eggs and sperm
can be produced for infertile couples. Nature Magazine states: "If
the eggs turn out to be normal, and if they can be produced efficiently,
researchers will use them to probe the mysterious molecular
reprogramming that produces eggs and sperm. This process is crucial to
understanding embryo development and fertility disorders." 6
||2003-JUN-17: USA: AMA endorses therapeutic
cloning: At their annual meeting, the American Medical Association
endorsed therapeutic cloning, if performed under careful supervision. The
new AMA policy permits doctors to opt out of performing the procedures if
they personally consider it to be unethical. This decision puts the
nation's largest organization of doctors in conflict with the Bush
administration. Art Caplan, a bioethicist from the University of
Pennsylvania said: "The AMA is conservative, and they know this is
a controversial subject. What they're saying is there's enough hope here
for finding cures that we have to speak out." Dr. John McMahon of
Helena, MT, said that calling it medically ethical is "totally
inappropriate ... when a number of us believe that human beings start with
two cells." 3
Embryo stem cells help paralyzed rats walk again: Project A.L.S.,
a non-profit agency, partners with scientists at leading American
universities with the goal of finding treatments and an eventual cure
for ALS (amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis). ALS is popularly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The disease
destroys a person's motor neurons; the victim loses his or her ability
to walk, speak, swallow and breathe. At the current rate, "300,000
seemingly healthy Americans living now will die from ALS." An
article in the Journal of Neuroscience described an experiment at
Johns Hopkins University which was funded by Project A.L.S.
Fifteen rats, which were paralyzed as a result of an ALS-type syndrome,
were injected with stem cells derived from human embryos. After twelve
weeks, they partially recovered control of their hind limbs. A similar
group of control rats did not improve. Their web site has a link to a
video showing the before and after activity of the test rats.
European Union votes to fund stem cell research: The European
Parliament voted 300 to 210 to back the public funding of research
on stem cells extracted from human embryos. 4
World: United Nations postpones decision: All 191 UN members reached
a consensus on a treaty that would prohibit reproductive cloning of
human beings. The U.S. led an effort to extend the ban to also prohibit
therapeutic cloning. "Supporters of therapeutic cloning
say the technique could prove valuable in the development of cures for a
whole range of diseases, including Parkinson's disease and diabetes.
Stem cells, or master cells, have the potential to turn into any human
cells and hold immense, though unproven, promise for treating a host of
illnesses." The UN General Assembly decided to postpone further
deliberations on the treaty for a year.
5 Further developments
France: Lower house of parliament passes anti-cloning bill: The
French Parliament has passed a bill that would make reproductive cloning
a crime against humanity, punishable by 30 years in jail and a
multi-million dollar fine. It would also ban cloning "for
therapeutic purposes, the creation of stem cells for medical research,
and key techniques used in embryo research." The upper house will
vote on the bill in 2004-FEB. 5
- Gary McCullough, "13 Arrested to Protest Human
Cloning," CCN, 2003-JAN-21. Online at:
Victoria Griffith, "Senator moves to outlaw human cloning,"
Financial Times, at:
- Lindsey Tanner, "AMA Endorses Cloning for
Research Uses," Associated Press, 2003-JUN-17, at:
- "EU decides to fund stem cell research,"
United Press International, 2003-NOV-19, at:
- "French parliament backs human cloning ban,"
Reuters, 2003-DEC-19, at:
- Tom Clarke, "Eggs made from embryos.
Reprogramming step towards safer reproductive cloning," Nature Science
Update, 2003-MAY-2, at:
- "PROJECT A.L.S. / KERR STUDY: Stem Cell
Treatment Helps Rats Paralyzed With ALS-Like Syndrome Walk Again,"
Project A.L.S., 2003-JUN-27, at:
Copyright ©2003 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2003-JAN-7
Last updated 2005-MAY-24
Author: Bruce A Robinson