Human cloning has taken a huge step forward with the revelation that the process has been used to successfully create an early human embryo called a blastocyst.
The cloned embryos were used as a source of stem cells, the cells that can be used to make any other kind of body tissue, such as heart muscle or bone.
The study, published in the journal Cell used the same methods used by British scientists to create the first fully cloned animal, a sheep named Dolly in 1996.
Doctors regard stem cells as the greatest hope currently available in medicine. The stem cells can be turned into any body tissue giving rise to the possibility of regenerating a severed spine, repairing heart attack damage and even possibly restoring sight.
Although trials are taking place using stem cells from donated embryos those cells do not match the patient and are ultimately rejected by the body, just as a transplanted liver would be. Cloning the cells prevents this rejection and the need to take drugs to prevent it.
Opponents to the study and use of stem cells site the research as unethical, stating that every embryo has the possibility of developing into a full human and therefore should not be used in experimentation.
Regarding the leap forward Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov said of the research by the team from the Oregon Health and Science University:
“A thorough examination of the stem cells derived through this technique demonstrated their ability to convert just like normal embryonic stem cells, into several different cell types, including nerve cells, liver cells and heart cells.
While there is much work to be done in developing safe and effective stem cell treatments, we believe this is a significant step forward in developing the cells that could be used in regenerative medicine.”
Dr David King, from the campaign group Human Genetics Alert viewed the matter quite differently, he warned:
“Scientists have finally delivered the baby that would-be human cloners have been waiting for: a method for reliably creating cloned human embryos. This makes it imperative that we create an international legal ban on human cloning before any more research like this takes place. It is irresponsible in the extreme to have published this research.”
Although producing a 150 cell blastocyst is a long way from a woman giving birth to a fully cloned baby it seems that the possibility of that happening has moved much closer.
Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!