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Developments during the year 2005

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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 during 2005:

bullet2005-FEB-08: UK issues second cloning license: In 2001, Britain became the first nation to authorize cloning to produce stem cells for research. The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority issued its first license in 2004-AUG to a team trying to find a cure for diabetes. They issued their second license to Ian Wilmut -- who led the team that created "Dolly" the first cloned sheep -- and motor neuron expert Christopher Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry in London. They plan to clone embryos to study how nerve cells go awry to cause the disease. Angela McNab, head of the Authority said: "We recognize that motor neuron disease is a serious congenital condition. Following careful review of the medical, scientific, legal and ethical aspects of this application, we felt it was appropriate to grant the Roslin Institute a one-year license for this research into the disease.

Reaction was as expected:
bulletDr. Brian Dickie, spokesperson of the Motor Neuron Disease Association, said: "We are a step closer to medical research that has the potential to revolutionize the future treatment of neuron disease." This is a currently incurable muscle-wasting condition that disables about 350,000 people and kills some 100,000 annually.
bulletA spokesperson for Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "What a sad and extraordinary volte face (turnaround) for the pioneer of animal cloning. Wilmut has always been the loudest voice in recent years warning of the dangers of mammalian cloning. And we remember how in the years following the birth of Dolly the Sheep, he assured the world he would never go near human cloning." In reality, Wilmut has often condemned reproductive cloning, whose goal is to produce newborns. But, he favors controlled therapeutic cloning which uses cloning to extract stem cells. Comment on Reproductive Ethics appears to not differentiate between the two activities.
bulletLicense recipient Christopher Shaw said: "This is potentially a big step forward for [motor neuron disease[ research. We have spent 20 years looking for genes that cause [motor neuron disease] and to date we have come up with just one gene. We believe that the use of cell nuclear replacement will greatly advance our understanding of why motor neurons degenerate in this disease, without having to hunt down the gene defect."
bulletPeter Braude, a genetics expert at King's College, London, said that studying motor neuron disease and finding a cure is extremely difficult; cloning is the only way to produce the cells necessary to further research. 1
bullet2005-FEB-14: MA: Bill to authorize stem cell research: The Massachusetts Family Institute reported that Senator Robert E. Travaglini has introduced bill SB 25. It would authorize the use of human embryos in the development of research and therapies in regenerative medicine. The bill prohibits human reproductive cloning. It allows for the fertilization of ova and the harvesting of stem cells. The Institute is opposed to this bill becauseL "....it explicitly endorses the creation of embryos for use in scientific research, which essentially means the creation of [human] life for destruction." Governor Mitt Romney announced that he is opposed to therapeutic cloning. His wife suffer from multiple sclerosis, which researchers believe might eventually be cured as a result of stem cell research. In a letter to Travaglini, Romney wrote: "The law should prohibit all human cloning and the creation of new human embryos for the purpose of research....Respect for human life is a fundamental element of civilized society. Lofty goals do not justify the creation of life for experimentation and destruction." 2
bullet2005-FEB-18: UN passed resolution to ban all cloning: By a vote of 71 to 35, with 43 nations abstaining, and international law committee of the UN passed a non-binding resolution which supports a ban on all forms of human cloning. In effect, this is a resolution to ban therapeutic cloning only, because reproductive cloning is so unsafe and unethical that no group is pursuing that route. 3
bullet2005-MAY-11: Embryo stem cell therapy cures paralyzed rats: Scientists have enabled paralyzed rats to walk again by treating them with human embryonic stem cells. This is "the first direct demonstration the controversial cells can regenerate tissues damaged by spinal cord injuries." Hans Keirstead, is an assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of California at Irvine's Reeve-Irvine Research Center and the lead author of the study. He said: "We're very excited with these results...[The findings] underscore the great potential that stem cells have for treating human disease and injury (and) suggests one approach to treating people who've just suffered spinal cord injury, although there is still much work to do before we can engage in human clinical tests." They found that the treatment was most effective on rats who had been paralyzed for only a week. Those who had been injured 10 months before treatment did not respond as strongly.

Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA said: "This is an impressive study....It's an exciting first step toward treating spinal cord injuries with human embryonic stem cells." He believes that human clinical trials probably are "not far down the pike and could happen as soon as next year." 4
bullet2005-DEC-23: South Korea: Cloning research shown to be fake: Hwang Woo-suk resigned his post with the Seoul National University after a university panel said that his research was "intentionally fabricated...This is a serious wrongdoing that has damaged the foundations of science." 5

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  1. Thomas Wagner, "Dolly Scientist Gets Human Cloning License," Associated Press, 2005-FEB-08, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  2. "Call your legislator and come to State House on Wednesday," Special Alert, Massachusetts Family Institute, 2005-FEB-14.
  3. "U.N. Panel Votes in Favor of Pro-Life Resolution," Citizen Link, 2005-FEB-18.
  4. "Stem Cell Therapy Cures Rat Paralysis," Sci-Tech Today, 2005-MAY-11, at: http://www.sci-tech-today.com/
  5. "S Korea cloning research was fake," BBC News, 2005-DEC-23, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2005-FEB-11
Last updated 2006-FEB-14
Author: Bruce A Robinson

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