BIOTECH: Firm says it created human embryo through cloning

From: Bill Douglass (
Date: Sun Nov 25 2001 - 13:54:34 MST


Firm says it created human embryo through cloning

WASHINGTON (CNN) --In a move certain to raise new questions of science
and ethics, doctors have created human embryos through cloning, scientists
announced Sunday.

The cloning was performed by Advanced Cell Technology Inc. of Worcester,
Massachusetts. The company said the experiment was aimed not at creating
a human being but at mining the embryo for stem cells used to treat disease,
Reuters reported. Stem cells are a kind of master cell that can grow
into any kind of cell in
the body.

"We've taken the first hulking steps toward what we think is going to
be a new area of medicine," said Dr. Michael West, the company's president
and CEO. "It's been called regenerative medicine."

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, West disputed the suggestion that the
work amounted to the creation of human life.

"Biologically, scientifically, the entities we're creating are not an
individual," West said. "They're only cellular life. They're not a human

West said the breakthrough could lead to advances in fighting a variety
of ailments, including Parkinson's disease and diabetes.

Exciting? Or troubling?

The news drew immediate criticism from some lawmakers.

"I think that people are concerned about the ethical problems here,"
said Sen. Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. He said he expected
lawmakers would soon take up the issue.

"I believe it will be a big debate, but at end of day I don't believe
we'll let cloning of human embryos," Shelby said.

"I find it very, very troubling, and I think most of Congress would,"
said Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.

In the study, which was published in the Journal of Regenerative Medicine,
scientists removed the DNA from human egg cells and replaced it with
DNA from a human body cell. The egg cells began to develop "to an embryonic
state," according to a press release from the company.

Of the eight eggs, two divided to form early embryos of four cells and
one progressed to a six-cell stage before it stopped dividing. This breakthrough
occurred October 13, 2001.

"These are exciting preliminary developments," said Robert P. Lanza,
vice president of medical and scientific development at ACT and an author
on the paper.

"This work sets the stage for human therapeutic cloning as a potentially
limitless source of immune-compatible cells for tissue engineering and
transplantation medicine. Our intention is not to create cloned human
beings, but rather to make lifesaving therapies for a wide range of human
disease conditions including diabetes, strokes, cancer, AIDS and neurodegenerative
disorders, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease."

The White House had no immediate reaction to the news, but President
Bush has previously voiced his opposition to human cloning. This summer,
the House of Representatives voted to ban human cloning and set penalties
of up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for those convicted
of attempting to clone humans.

The measure was never taken up by the Senate, so it never became law.

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