Monday 9 February 2009

The end of human cloning

"We got beautiful little hybrid embryos, but it didn't work no matter how hard we tried", said Dr. Robert Lanza of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, one of the authors of a study* which shows (as Reuters puts it): Animal-human clones don't work.

James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D. from the US (pictured), a leading stem cell scientist, senior scientist at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, who has travelled the world pointing out the inefficacy of embryonic stem cell research to his scientific colleagues, says:
"What should we, the people, think, when the experts disagree on an issue that affects us all deeply and in ramifying ways? And, more importantly, what should we expect from our elected representatives when they consider the cooing of their bevies of famous experts to be above the earnest contention of moral experts? Well, we could passively wait to see if either side proves to be right long after irreparable harm has been done to ourselves and to our fellows. We could resign ourselves to a condition in which many of our elected representatives rarely represent the rights of any but those who are the strongest economically and politically. Or, we could use our common sense to decry deception when we see it and reject such a state of affairs. Moreover, we should demand no less from our representatives, no matter how high their rank.

"In 2008, ignoring many voices of morality, ethics, and scientific reason, the British Parliament approved the controversial HFE bill, which included allowances for scientists to produce and destroy animal-human hybrid embryos. Approving MPs wrapped themselves tightly in the deceptive cloaks of “necessary and desirable” and dispatched underneath them the true principles at issue, ethical and sound. When experts disagree, we the people, and our representatives, must look beyond what is being said, to who is saying it, and why. Gentle UK scientists, of ethical bearing, with expert knowledge, and nothing to gain, courageously risked their station in their profession to object that making animal-human hybrid embryos was not only unethical, but also unsound scientifically. Not only did they adamantly predict that it would not work and, therefore, waste the people’s resources, but they also knew that it could not work. These scientists stepped forward to protect embryonic persons and the people’s resources from their noted colleagues, who called their protests rubbish, who misled the desperate hopes of the sick and injured, and who had everything to gain, starting with the people’s research funds. Where conflict of interest lives, there also live impropriety and dishonesty.

"So, here we are now, less than a year later, and the UK now has the benefit of a report from a prominent U.S. stem cell company announcing sheepishly that animal-human hybrid embryos are [rubbish] (Chung et al., 2009, Reprogramming of Human Somatic Cells Using Human and Animal Oocytes. Cloning and Stem Cells 11, 1-11). For those trained in the science, this is not news, but instead a completed fate that was known from the beginning. If those UK scientists and selected MPs, who insisted on this research so that they might obtain [government] funds and other gains, were in fact genuine in their stated motivation, then we know now that, at a minimum, they are not 'experts' at all.

"Those who did and who continue to speak out against HFEA-sponsored human embryo research should not overlook a much more important revelation of the new Chung report that the news media missed as the more important finding. This report also discloses the first detailed analyses of human-human cloned embryos. Difficulty obtaining sufficient human eggs to conceive these human clones was the basis for pursuing animal-human hybrid embryo cloning in the first place. The report clearly shows that, for their promised use for new human therapies, cloned human embryos are also too defective. So, the big story that needs to be reported is that the Chung report discloses that human cloning itself is dead on arrival.

"We the people must also not overlook the human tragedy of the Chung study. It reports the in vitro conception of 49 cloned human embryos and 135 animal-human hybrid embryos. Though even honorable scientific experts might debate the humanity of the 135, there is no doubt that 49 human beings died senselessly and avoidably for this research, which yielded what was already known with a high degree of certainty. In the future, we the people, and more importantly our government representatives, must do better to listen to the experts who have nothing to gain but the honorable protection of innocent human lives."
* Young Chung, Colin E. Bishop, Nathan R. Treff, Stephen J. Walker, Vladislav M. Sandler, Sandy Becker, Irina Klimanskaya, Wan-Song Wun, Randall Dunn, Rebecca M. Hall, Jing Su, Shi-Jiang Lu, Marc Maserati, Young-Ho Choi, Richard Scott, Anthony Atala, Ralph Dittman, Robert Lanza. Reprogramming of Human Somatic Cells Using Human and Animal Oocytes. Cloning and Stem Cells, February 2009 DOI: 10.1089/clo.2009.0004