Opponents of Cloning Ban Need a Course in Stem Cells 101

By Dave Andrusko

Thanks to those of you who so generously responded to an analysis of  the opposition to a proposal to prevent the funding of human cloning in Minnesota [www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2011/04/critics-of-human-cloning-ban-are-guilty-of-the-very-mistakes-attributed-to-proponents]. To make sense of where opponents are coming from, you could do a lot worse than read an op-ed that ran yesterday in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by the director of clinical research for the University of Minnesota’s Stem Cell Institute.

I say that because, learned fellow that he is, John E. Wagner is determined to rewrite human biology. Why? Because unless he able to hoodwink the public into believing that black is white and up is down, none of Wagner’s very harsh criticism passes the smell test.

Let’s begin with no matter how loudly Wagner insists otherwise, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act is about one matter and one matter only: making sure the state of Minnesota does not fund human cloning. Proponents, such as Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) are very clear what is meant by this.

The proposal would prohibit state funding for the creation of cloned human embryos, using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). In SCNT, the genetic material–the nucleus– of a human egg is removed. The genetic material is taken from a somatic cell from the donor (typically from a skin cell) and then inserted into the nucleus-free egg.

Stimuli are applied and, if successful, a new human organism is created– a clone of the donor of the genetic material.

Wagner adds his own twist to the usual two-step side-step. Customarily proponents contrast  bad  cloning—so-called “reproductive cloning”—and good cloning–so-called “therapeutic cloning.” But BOTH are cloning; what differs is the next step. In  the former case the embryo is implanted in a woman; in the later case, the embryo is harvested for its stem cells.

Wagner doesn’t even pause to bother to make that bogus distinction. Instead (1) he says the “university does not, has not, and will not perform human reproductive cloning research. In fact, it isn’t even possible to clone a human being, as human embryogenesis is far more complex than that of frogs and sheep”; and (2) declares with no proof whatsoever, “But this bill is not just an attack on human reproductive cloning, it is a full-scale assault on stem cell research.” What is the proper response?

Can’t do human reproductive cloning? Before 1997 and Dolly the Sheep, learned scientists loudly proclaimed it was impossible to clone mammals, because mammalian development was much more complicated than that of frogs.

As for the “full-scale assault of stem cell research,” Wagner has slipped in the fundamental confusion/distortion. Stay with me on this.

Cloning creates an embryo, not a collection of “stem cells”! As noted above, you have two options. You can attempt to bring that embryo to term or you can mine it for the embryo’s stem cells.

Likewise fertilization creates an embryo, not stem cells. And the exact same two options are present when an embryo is created by fertilization: life or death.

The Star Tribune provided space for an opposing viewpoint which calmly dismantled Wagner’s claims. Read “Stem Cells 101” at www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/119438079.html.

I would appreciate your help by way of  feedback on National Right to Life News Today. Please send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com. If you like, join those who are following me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daveha

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