This just in from Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director for the Center for Genetics and Society. She tells us that today’s announcement about a California firm’s cloning human embryos are disturbing and may violate state law. This work, she says, raises three concerns. Darnovsky says:
“First, the acquisition of the human eggs needed for cloning-based stem cell research puts women’s health at risk. Second, it opens the door to reproductive cloning, which is not prohibited by federal law or laws in the majority of states. Third, it is highly unrealistic that research cloning can lead to custom treatments for patients, despite the company’s claims of therapeutic potential.
Especially in light of recent developments in cell reprogramming – which has the potential to provide disease-specific stem cells without the problems raised by cloning-based stem cell research – this technique is not justifiable at this time, she continues.
“Stemagen’s protocol relies on obtaining eggs from women who provided them for prospective parents undergoing assisted reproduction. While the paper notes that neither the egg providers nor the prospective parents were paid by the researchers, it is likely that the egg providers were paid by the prospective parents.”
This arrangement, she argues, would violate both the spirit and potentially the letter both of California’s law and its guidelines governing stem cell research that is not funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). It would be explicitly prohibited by CIRM’s regulations, she adds, and any stem cell lines derived under such an arrangement would be ineligible for CIRM funding.
“Stemagen’s relationships with the fertility clinics where the eggs were obtained are also problematic,” she concluded. “Since the fertility doctors are named as co-authors of the scientific paper, they had a professional incentive to use an aggressive protocol that would yield larger numbers of eggs, but would also increase the chance of triggering adverse reactions that could threaten the women’s health.”
God said be fruitful and multiply, but somehow I don’t think he meant cloning human embryos. What do you think? Should we be cloning embryos? Or is that playing God?