Friday, May 17, 2013

New report on human cloning and production of embryonic stem cells

According to news reports there has been a new breakthrough in human cloning using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) which has been used to clone an embryo or embryos for the production of stem cells. US scientists claim that this marks a "significant step" for medicine. A team at the Oregon Health and Science University, according reports, have developed the embryo to the blastocyst stage - around 150 cells – which they claim is enough to provide a source of embryonic stem cells.

This practice however is completely unethical in that living human embryos are being deliberately brought into being and then destroyed in the process of stem cell production.

The study, published in the journal Cell says the methods used were similar to those  used by Ian Wilmut to clone Dolly the sheep in the UK.

According to the reports the cloned embryos were used as a source of stem cells, which, according to the report, can in theory make new heart muscle, bone, brain tissue or any other type of cell in the body.  Major problems have been experienced in the past however in the manipulation of embryonic stem cells in mice, resulting in cancerous growths where the stem cells were injected.
The United Nations General Assembly in 2005  approved an International Convention against this kind of research in which it called on all member states to “prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life. (A/59/516/Add.1)
This kind of research known as therapeutic cloning is not only unethical it is unsafe and is also unnecessary because of the significant progress made in recent years in the production of adult stem cells and their use in treating many ailments.

Some adult/umbilical cord stem cell treatments are now used in routine clinical practice. But most remain experimental. For example, trials are currently underway in human patients with "severe" multiple sclerosis using the patients' own blood stem cells. After three years, the study reported, adult stem cells were "able to induce a prolonged clinical stabilization in severe progressive MS patients," meaning the disease stopped advancing, "resulting in both sustained treatment-free periods and quality-of-life improvements."
Another area of great hope for adult stem cell therapy comes from using a patient's olfactory tissues, found in the nasal cavity, to treat paralysis caused by spinal cord injury. Peer-reviewed animal studies previously highlighted great potential for this technique. For example, olfactory tissues have "promoted partial restoration of function" in paralyzed rats.
This new report follows a number of previous bogus claims that stem cells have been produced by SCNT, the most infamous one being that made by the disgraced South Korean scientist, Hwang Woo-suk, who also claimed to have created stem cells from cloned human embryos, but was found to have faked the evidence.

Similar reports are repeated with such regularity that they have now almost become a mantra: "Embryonic stem cells" we are told "offer the most promise for finding cures" for degenerative diseases and conditions such as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury. Continually repeating something however doesn't make it true and time will tell whether this new claim is actually real or another bogus claim in order to attract funding for the unethical research.