By Wesley J. Smith
Now that human cloning is upon us, look for many scientists and their camp followers (or ignorant reporters) to mislead about what the technology entails. Human SCNT [somatic cell nuclear transfer] creates human embryos through asexual means. It does not create stem cells. To obtain cloned stem cells, the embryos have to be nurtured and maintained in a dish for about 10 days, destroyed, and the stem cell lines derived.
But don’t look for the embryo part to make many stories. Early case in point, a story by Loren Grush on FNC:
“In a major medical breakthrough, researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) have for the first time ever successfully converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells–via a technique called nuclear transfer. The research has major implications for the future of medical treatments, as many believe embryonic stem cells are the key to treating damaged cells lost through injury or illness. According to various medical researchers, stem cell therapy has the potential to treat anything from heart disease and spinal cord injuries to major neurological diseases, like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
“Through a common laboratory method known as somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), ONPRC scientists, along with researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, essentially swapped the genetic codes of an unfertilized egg and a human skin cell to create their new embryonic stem cells…The combination of the egg’s cytoplasm and the skin cell’s nucleus eventually grows and develops into the embryonic stem cell.”
False! Repeat after me: The unfertilized egg is not turned into stem cells. Rather, in the same cloning process as resulted in Dolly the sheep, it becomes an embryo, which is destroyed to obtain the cells. Moreover, the process is hardly common. In fact, this is the first time SCNT has worked in humans. That’s why it’ a big story!
The human cloning issue is going be a Mt. Everest of ethical contention. If we are going to discuss this rationally, we need accurate information from the scientists and the media. I plan to hold both to account in this regard going forward.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Wesley’s great blog.