STEM CELL BREAKTHROUGH? Have researchers achieved 'therapeutic cloning' of adults?
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/21/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
For the first time, researchers claim to have achieved "therapeutic cloning" of adults, which involves producing embryonic cells genetically identical to a donor. It marks the first step in what is called reproductive cloning, or producing a genetic duplicate of someone. The technique remains hotly controversial. The United Nations called upon countries to ban it in 2005, and the United States still prohibits the use of federal funds for either reproductive or therapeutic cloning.The Church does not object to the use of stem cells, as long as the cells used do not take human life. In fact, the Church has long been supportive of adult stem cell research. It has actually produced the most promising and verifiable advances. However, her watchful eye on protecting the dignity of every human life, at every age and stage, is essential - as medical science enters into these morally complex areas. All science must be placed at the service of the person, respecting human dignity and not turn persons into products to be used.
The ultimate goal must always respect the dignity of every human life
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers created patient-specific cell lines out of the skin cells of two adult men last week. The very same technique was used to create Dolly, the clone of a sheep in 1997.
The study was funded by a foundation and the South Korean government.
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If confirmed, some say it could prove significant. Many illnesses may one day be treated with stem cells, such as heart failure and vision loss, primarily affect adults. Patient-specific stem cells would have to be created from older cells, not infant or fetal ones. A long and arduous process, the scientists created stem cells only once for each donor out of 39 tries.
Outside experts had different views of the study, which was led by Young Gie Chung of the Research Institute for Stem Cell Research at CHA Health Systems in Los Angeles.
Some were quick to shortchange the announcement. Stem-cell biologist George Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute called it "an incremental advance" and "not earth-shattering."
Reproductive biologist Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University was more positive. "The advance here is showing that [nuclear transfer] looks like it will work with people of all ages," he said.
Mitalipov led the team that used nuclear transfer of fetal and infant DNA to produce stem cells last year. It was the first time it had been accomplished in humans of any age.Of course, the extraction of stem cells from any human embryonic person is always morally objectionable because such extraction takes the life of that embryonic person.
In therapeutic cloning, scientists use a zap of electricity to fuse a grown cell, usually a skin cell, with an ovum whose own DNA has been removed. The egg then divides and multiplies, and within five or six days it develops into an embryo shaped like a hollow sphere.
If the embryo were implanted in a human uterus, it could develop into a clone of the DNA donor, which is how Dolly was created. "Without regulations in place, such embryos could also be used for human reproductive cloning, although this would be unsafe and grossly unethical," Robert Lanza, chief scientist of Massachusetts-based biotech Advanced Cell Technology and a co-author of the new study, said.
The ultimate goal of some scientists is to grow these embryonic stem cells in labs. Technology would then turn into specialized cells for therapeutic use against an illness the DNA donor has, such as Parkinson's disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis or type-1 diabetes. Because the cells are genetically identical to the donor's, they would not be rejected by the immune system.
The Church does not object to the use of stem cells, as long as the cells used do not take human life. In fact, the Church has long been supportive of adult stem cell research. It has produced the most promising and verifiable advances. However, her watchful eye on protecting the dignity of every human life, at every age and stage, is essential as medical science enters into these morally complex areas. All science must be placed at the service of the person and not turn persons into products to be used.
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