Cloning

Clon·ing: To create or propagate (an organism) from a clone cell or DNA sequence, such as a gene, that is transferred from one organism to another and replicated by genetic engineering techniques. Posts in this category pertain to scientific issues regarding cloning and to moral, ethical, and political issues regarding cloning of humans.

Early: The New “Embryonic”

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Rebecca Taylor of Mary Meets Dolly links to this Kansas City Star article:

Missouri’s cloning war came to the Capitol on Thursday when two Washington University scientists wrangled over research on early stem cells and the laboratory techniques used to grow them.

...

The two men, both respected researchers, offered their competing viewpoints during a forum at the Missouri Press Association’s Day at the Capitol.

Rebecca makes a great point about the following:

The conclusion? It comes down to whether you view the cells created by the process to be a person.

Steven Teitelbaum, a professor who supports the initiative petition that would protect stem-cell research in Missouri, said he believes that cells in a Petri dish are not persons. But science, he said, cannot answer the question.

“It depends on your religious tradition, your ethics, the feeling in your gut…” Teitelbaum said. “When does a soul come into the body, if at all? Clearly, no one knows that.”

Richard Chole, a fellow professor who opposes the initiative, said he believes that a human being is formed at the moment of conception or the moment that a person’s skin cell is copied through cloning techniques. Taking the stem cells that develop, he said, essentially kills a developing human.

“A line should be drawn,” Chole said, “at the point we are destroying a human life.”

Rebecca's take:

Teitelbaum is correct that there is no way to scientifically prove when the soul enters the body. And different religions hold differing beliefs. We Catholics believe that the soul is present from the moment of conception because that is when science tells us that a new human life begins. (Surprisingly, many Catholics erroneously believe that an embryo created by SCNT does not have a soul.)

But, if he is correct that no one knows for sure, why would he automatically say it is okay to destroy life that we are unsure about? Wouldn't logic dictate that if "science cannot answer that question" that science should err on the side of caution?

Indeed.

Other than that point, something else caught my attention in this article. See the following excerpts:

Missouri’s cloning war came to the Capitol on Thursday when two Washington University scientists wrangled over research on early stem cells and the laboratory techniques used to grow them.

...

The controversy involves a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, sometimes called therapeutic cloning. Researchers take a human egg cell, remove its nucleus and replace it with the nucleus of an ordinary cell, such as a skin cell. The egg reprograms the nucleus to act like an egg that was newly fertilized by a sperm.

In a few days, it will grow into a ball of cells known as a blastocyst. Inside that ball are early stem cells, which have the potential to grow into all the different tissues of the body.

...

The basic issue, he said, is the vast potential that research on early stem cells offers.

The author's bias on this issue is shining as brightly as Moses' face when he descended Mt. Sinai, veiled in the substitution of "early stem cells" for "embryonic stem cells" and referring to the embryo as a "ball of cells".

SCNT is a cloning technique that results in a zygote. Upon first division, that entity is then an embryo, by definition. The blastocyst is part of the embryonic phase of development of that entity. Thus, the stem cells contained within that blastocyst are embryonic stem cells.

But the bias doesn't stop with the misrepresentation of the nature of stem cells as embryonic. Note that the author also makes this statement:

The controversy involves a process known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, sometimes called therapeutic cloning.

Saying that SCNT is "sometimes" called therapeutic cloning is like saying the President of the United States (POTUS) is "sometimes" called the Commander-In-Chief (CIC). POTUS is always the CIC, even if he does not always act in that capacity. SCNT is always cloning; the differentiation between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" exists only in the intended use of the product of the procedure.

To that end, I find the following arguments by Steven Teitelbaum to be specious.

First:

Teitelbaum said the initiative uses common-sense meanings. When typical voters think of human cloning, they expect to see a baby, he said. The initiative would ban cloning a baby by imposing criminal penalties against anyone who attempted to implant cloned cells into a woman’s uterus.

Proponents claim the initiative uses "common-sense meanings", yet the initiative fact sheet adamantly claims that it bans human cloning:

Voting YES on the Initiative protects stem cell research and cures - and strictly prohibits human cloning.

...

It also sets responsible boundaries and guidelines to ensure that stem cell research is conducted ethically and safely. And, it resolves concerns that stem cell research could lead to human cloning by strictly banning any attempt to clone a human being.

These semantics are not "common-sense"; they are an intentional misrepresentation of the nature and intent of both the procedure, and the initiativfe itself. At the point of implantation into the uterus, the cloning procedure has long-since been completed, and the clone has long-since been created. At this point, implantation in the uterus versus harvesting for stem cells is a matter of intended use of the clone, not one of defining the nature or identity of the entity resulting from the cloning procedure.

Second:

In addition, the blastocyst created by nuclear transfer is fundamentally different from one created by the union of sperm and egg, Teitelbaum said. The sexually produced blastocyst has some 25 genes functioning that permit it to implant in the uterus and begin to develop. In the cloned version, those genes are not functioning, he said.

Oh really? Fundamentally different, eh? Somebody better tell Dolly; she still thinks she's a sheep. A whole lot of researchers are going to be shocked by this revelation that she is "fundamentally different" from a sheep, because she was the result of SCNT.

A Reader’s Response on ANT

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Parableman stops by this post about the stem-cell issue, that I submitted to Christian Carnival CIX. He has some thoughts on ANT:

I don't think it's as clear on ANT. The way it's usually been described from what I've read is that they alter the genetic information before they import the nucleus. The genetic engineering thus takes place before there's any orgnanism, and I think what they're doing is not like producing a human being that is alive and unable to grow but more like producing a corpse with still-living material. But it's not producing a corpse by killing an organism. It's more like producing a corpse by putting together materials that are incapable of being an organism. That doesn't sound anywhere near as problematic as the way you describe it. I think there are ethical worries, but I think it's misleading to describe it as a living embryo and then preventing it from growing. Does it count as an organism at all? I don't think that's as easy a question as you're making it sound. Current understandings of what it takes to answer that seem to me to be indeterminate on this sort of question.

I appreciate all input, and I'd like to discuss. On this statement:

The way it's usually been described from what I've read is that they alter the genetic information before they import the nucleus. The genetic engineering thus takes place before there's any orgnanism...

Let's take a look at what actually happens in the process. The method used here is still Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT):

The nucleus of a cell contains DNA, which acts roughly as its blueprint (although unlike an actual blueprint, these instructions are greatly affected by environment as well as other factors not yet fully understood and can change over time). In somatic cell nuclear transfer the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is removed or destroyed. A somatic cell (a cell other than a sperm or egg cell) is then inserted into the enucleated egg and the two cells fuse together.

Altered Nuclear Transfer (ANT) modifies not the process, but one of the components: namely, the somatic cell implanted in the nucleus-free egg. What, then, is a somatic cell?

A somatic cell is generally taken to mean any cell forming the body of an organism: the word "somatic" is derived from the Greek word s?ma, meaning "body". Somatic cells, by definition, are not germline cells and cannot divide or differentiate to produce a new generation of offspring under any circumstances. In mammals, germline cells are the sperm and ova (also known as "gametes") which fuse during fertilisation to produce a cell called a zygote, from which the entire mammalian embryo develops. Every other cell type in the mammalian body – apart from the sperm and ova, the cells from which they are made (gametocytes) and undifferentiated stem cells – is a somatic cell; internal organs, skin, bones, blood and connective tissue are all made up of somatic cells.

...

Somatic cells can also be defined by the amount of genetic material they contain, which in mammals is always twice as much as contained in a germline cell. The genetic information in human somatic cells is packaged into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Human germline cells contain exactly half this amount, i.e. 23 single chromosomes. This means that when an ova and sperm fuse, they produce a zygote with 23 pairs of chromosomes.

The problem, then, that I have with your statement that "genetic engineering thus takes place before there's any organism" is that the SCNT process (altered or otherwise) requires a genetically fully human organism to be present at every step. The process starts with a genetically fully human somatic cell, implants it into an enucleated human gamete, creating a genetically fully human embryo. Both the original somatic cell and the resulting embryo contain 23 pairs of chromosomes.

ANT does not modify this genetic makeup of either the somatic cell nor of the resulting embryo. This point is critical, and ANT proponents (including Dr. Hurlbut) try to disguise this fact:

Altered Nuclear Transfer uses the technology of NT but with a preemptive alteration that assures that no embryo is created.

The somatic cell nucleus or the enucleated egg contents (cytoplasm) or both are first altered before the somatic cell nucleus is transferred into the egg. The alterations cause the somatic cell DNA to function in such a way that no embryo is generated, but pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are produced.

This point is critical, and ANT proponents' position here is untenable. Stem cells are not "formed", they are - by definition - derived from an embryo. Definition of embryonic stem cells:

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are stem cells derived from the undifferentiated inner mass cells of a human embryo (sometimes called a blastocyst, which is an early stage embryo - approximately 1 week old in humans - consisting of 50-150 cells).

To be clear, here is the definition of a blastocyst:

A mammal develops from a single cell called a zygote, which results from an oocyte (egg) being fertilized by a single sperm. The zygote is surrounded by a strong membrane of glycoproteins called the zona pellucida which the successful sperm has managed to penetrate.

The zygote undergoes cleavage, increasing the number of cells within the zona pellucida. When there are about 4 to 16 cells, the embryo is in the morula stage. When the number of cells reaches 40 to 150, a central, fluid-filled cavity (blastocoel) forms. The zona pellucida begins to degenerate. This stage in the developing embryo is the blastocyst, and lasts approximately until the implantation in the uterus. The outer cells develop into the placenta.

The definition of a zygote:

A zygote ...is a cell that is the result of fertilization. That is, two haploid cells—usually (but not always) an ovum from a female and a sperm cell from a male—merge into a single diploid cell called the zygote (or zygocyte).

Animal zygotes undergo mitotic cell divisions to become an embryo.

And finally, the definition of embryo:

An embryo ...is a diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development.

...

In organisms that reproduce sexually, once a sperm fertilizes an egg cell, the result is a cell called the zygote that has all the DNA of two parents. In plants, animals, and some protists, the zygote will begin to divide by mitosis to produce a multicellular organism. The term embryo refers to the early stages of this development, after the zygote has divided at least once, but before the process has completed to produce a new individual.

Apologies for the copious quoting, but it is important that the meanings of each of these terms are understood.

Now, back to Hulburt's defense:

Why the cell produced by ANT is not an embryo and cannot produce an embryo:

Because the alterations are made before the somatic cell nucleus is transferred into the egg, the result of the ANT procedure is a cell whose DNA and pattern of gene expression are not only altered, but altered from the very start. Therefore from the very start it does not have the capacity for the integrated organization and coordinated development that characterize a human embryo. This is clearest in the case of ANT-OAR where the cell directly behaves like a pluripotent cell.

Elsewhere, in his bioethics presentation to the President, he gives this explanation for why the result of ANT is not a "living organism":

The moral argument for Altered Nuclear Transfer is grounded in the emerging science of systems biology. According to this radical revision of our prevailing reductionistic views, an organism is a living whole, a dynamic network of interdependent and integrated parts.

There are essential subsystems of growth (cells, tissues and organs), but a living being is more than the sum of its parts, and the parts are dependent on the integrated unity of the whole. Fully constituted, the organism is a self-sustaining and harmonious whole, a unified being with an inherent principle of organization that orders and guides its continuity of growth. In the human embryo, this principle of organismal unity is an engaged and effective potential-in-process, an activated dynamic of development in the direction of the mature human form. Incompletely constituted or severed from the whole, subsystems with partial trajectories of development may temporarily proceed forward with a certain biological momentum. Ultimately, however, they fail to rise to the level of the coordinated coherence of a living organism and become merely disorganized cellular growth.

This is dangerous ground, for several reasons. Unaltered, the somatic cell and egg would fuse, begin mitosis, and the resulting embryo would proceed on to further development. Altered, the somatic cell and egg would fuse, begin mitosis (note, again, at this point, the organism is an embryo) - identical to the unaltered organism, except that it has been genetically robbed of its inherent ability to develop. Let me reiterate: the moment a zygote containing 23 paired human chromosomes divides, an embryo exists; a non-viable embryo, to be sure - but an embryo, nonetheless. ANT proponents can argue the moral impact of the creation of a non-viable embryo, but to claim that ANT does not produce an embryo is a fallacy. Two arguments:

  • First, NT produces a zygote, which upon first division becomes - by definition - an embryo.
  • Second, ANT does not produce stem cells directly, but an organism containing stem cells. As was demonstrated above, the entity containing stem cells is an embryo at the blastocyst stage.

So, coming back to Parableman's comment:

I think what they're doing is not like producing a human being that is alive and unable to grow but more like producing a corpse with still-living material. But it's not producing a corpse by killing an organism. It's more like producing a corpse by putting together materials that are incapable of being an organism.

Hopefully you can see now that the rationalization for the entity created from ANT being non-living (or non-human, or whatever term they choose to use) is to re-define the meaning of "living":"Fully constituted, the organism is a self-sustaining and harmonious whole, a unified being with an inherent principle of organization that orders and guides its continuity of growth. In the human embryo, this principle of organismal unity is an engaged and effective potential-in-process, an activated dynamic of development in the direction of the mature human form." Again, unaltered, the embryo would progress along the natural developmental path; altered, the embryo is denied that natural development.

This rationalization is crudely analagous to genetically altering the hypothalamus or androgen/LH receptor genes of a child, inhibiting that child from progressing through puberty into adulthood, and then claiming that, because the child is unable to progress along his natural developmental path, that he is not "living".

Remember, the somatic cell is inherently capable of development into a fully developed entity. This concept is the entire basis of SCNT. Thus, the somatic cell is in no way materials that are incapable of being an organism, nor is it like "corpse with still-living material.

The moral and ethical concerns of genetically altering a potential human life are myriad, and better left for another day. My point here is only to clarify the process of ANT and the nature of the entities involved beforehand and produced as a result.

Finally, Parableman's comment:

...I think it's misleading to describe it as a living embryo and then preventing it from growing.

The embryo resulting from SCNT inherently progresses along its natural development path. The embryo resulting from ANT begins progressing along that same natural development path, but has been genetically inhibited from completing that path. It reaches at least the blastocyst stage - as evidenced by its development of embryonic stem cells.

ANT does not directly produce stem cells; it produces an embryo that develops stem cells as part of its natural developmenet process. Again, argue the moral/ethical issues surrounding the creation of an embryo genetically altered to inhibit its development; but the claim that ANT does not produce a human embryo is unequivocally untrue.

Clone The Truth: Stem-Cell Research Splits Republicans

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Democrats, Republicans, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Today's obfuscation comes from roto-Reuters, in Stem Cell Research Splits Republicans.

Getting right into it:

The Republican rift pits religious conservatives and abortion foes who oppose the research on moral grounds against supporters who tout its potential benefits in fighting diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research has proven no potential for benefits in fighting or curing any diseases. Adult Stem Cells (ASRs), however, have already proven to be efficacious in treating Parkinson's Disease, and are beginning to demonstrate effectiveness in fighting Alzheimer's Disease. Proponents of ESC research never seem to note these accomplishments of ASRs, nor do the MSM outlets reporting on stem-cell related news and issues.

With polls showing large majorities of Americans backing stem-cell research, some Republican candidates find themselves stuck in the middle. Democrats, who largely support the research, are eager to take advantage of their quandary.

Large majorities of Americans back stem-cell research? No differentiation between ASC and ESC research? This 2001 ABC News poll says most Americans support stem cell research, yet buried in the article is this note:

In a poll it released last month, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops posed the issue by saying "live embryos would be destroyed" for undefined "experiments"; it found 70 percent opposed. By contrast, a pro-research poll didn't mention embryos, referring to "excess fertilized eggs" and listing seven "deadly diseases" the research could help treat. It found 77 percent in favor.

Words matter.

In Missouri, supporters are gathering signatures to put a referendum on the state ballot in November that would protect certain types of stem-cell research.

Not "certain types" - all types. The initiative redefines "cloning" as "not cloning":

Voting YES on the Initiative protects stem cell research and cures - and strictly prohibits human cloning.

Clearly, a state ban on any lifesaving stem cell research and cures that are allowed in our country would be unfair to Missouri patients and medical institutions. The Stem Cell Initiative will prevent such unfair bans by making it clear in our state constitution that any stem cell research and cures allowed under federal law will continue to be allowed in Missouri.

It also sets responsible boundaries and guidelines to ensure that stem cell research is conducted ethically and safely. And, it resolves concerns that stem cell research could lead to human cloning by strictly banning any attempt to clone a human being.

And intentionally to confuse the issue with voters, and practically requires the state to fund research with public funds.

But he recently dropped support for a controversial ban on human cloning and offered a compromise on stem-cell research, angering conservatives who were among his base supporters.

The proposed cloning ban is "controversial" in the same way that Cheney's hunting accident was "news" - only because the MSM tried to make it so. Yet another 2001 ABC News poll found that 9 out of 10 Americans oppose human reproductive cloning, and Americans oppose human therapeutic cloning 2 to 1.

"Talent is in a political no man's land where he is in the line of fire from people on both sides of the issue," said Sam Lee, director of Campaign Life Missouri, an anti-abortion lobbying group. Lee said opponents of stem-cell research were angry enough to skip voting for Talent in November.

Right, Republicans are going to allow - actively or passively - the staunchly pro-ESC research Claire McCaskill to unseat Talent. Roto-Reuters is smoking the funny mushrooms again.

Stem-cell research is opposed by conservative groups who compare it to abortion because it destroys embryos. But supporters, including some Republicans who oppose abortion rights, say the research offers crucial hope for medical breakthroughs.

Again, ESC research has offered no hope whatsoever - much less, "crucial hope" - for any medical breakthrough, while ASC research has already yielded at least 65 treatments, and the numbers keep growing. (Caveat emptor: the "Stem Cell Research Foundation" is complicit in the redefinition of terminology, including this statement: "Therapeutic cloning is not the same as reproductive cloning, which is intended to genetically duplicate a person" knowing full-well that SCNT genetically duplicates the donor of the somatic cell. However, even their "what's new" section cannot hide the fact that ASCs produce benefit, cure, and therapy after benefit, cure, and therapy while ESCs are long on hype and woefully short on results.)

Via John Combest.

MetroVoice 2006 Sanctity of Life Special Edition

Filed in Religion, Science, Social IssuesTags: Christianity, Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

The February 2006 St. Louis MetroVoice is a Special Edition devoted to Sanctity of Life.

The edition includes:

MetroVoice's Editorial Policy:

The MetroVoice is non-denominationally and non-politically aligned to encourage unity and activism in support of, or opposition to, those issues which affect the Christian community in particular and local community as a whole. It supports the biblical doctrines expressed in the ecumenical creeds of the Apostle's Creed, Nicene Creed, Creed of Chalcedon and Athanasian Creed and views both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as the infallible and authoritative Word of God.

Say It Ain’t So, Jim!

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Missouri, Republicans, Saint Louis, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Hat tip: Arch City Chronicle. Also, Jamie Allman discussed this article this afternoon on 97.1 FM Talk while filling in on the Dave Glover Show. He mentioned an email I sent him regarding some of these issues.

The Post-Dispatch reports Senator Talent's capitulation on banning embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, and, as usual when reporting on stem cell research, gets the story completely wrong.

First, on the poor reporting:

Following the lead-in, the article makes the following statement:

Wading into a political minefield that has pitted abortion-rights opponents against some scientists and families struggling with debilitating diseases, Talent, R-Mo., said Friday there were "no prospects" for enacting the ban on human cloning—a bill he has co-sponsored for the last four years.

The argument that this debate pits abortion-rights opponents against scientists and families struggling with debilitating diseases is both specious and sensational. It evokes the entirely unproven notion that embryonic stem cell research has shown at all any unique promise in therapeutic benefits in order to appeal to the emotional sensibilities of an otherwise-ignorant audience. (See this previous post for related links.) The inarguable reality is that, for those families struggling with debilitating diseases, the only real hope exists right now in adult stem cell research. While embryonic stem cell research has produced not one benefit, adult stem cell research has produced some sixty-five benefits (as of July 2005) for cancer, auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular and ocular problems, neural/degenerative illnesses and injuries, anemia and other blood conditions, metabolic disorders, and various wounds and injuries.

Without this context, the uninformed reader is led to assume that without embryonic stem cell research, no hope exists for therapies or cures for such debilitating diseases. Without this context, such a reader is left ignorant even of the differentiation between adult and embryonic stem cell research. Without this context, the reader does not recognize that the ban only applies to embryonic stem cell research, preserving the efficacious adult stem cell research.

Toward the end of the article, the following statement appears:

In his speech Friday, Talent said the new form of stem cell research makes therapeutic cloning unnecessary.

In that process, also known as or somatic cell nuclear transfer, the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is replaced with the nucleus of another cell from a human body. The egg is then stimulated to divide, as it would when fertilized by a sperm, and the early stem cells are harvested. Stem cells can mature into a variety of cells to form organs and other body parts.

Now here's a semantic argument I've not yet heard; likely, because Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) and therapeutic cloning are exactly the same thing. The two terms are interchangeable:

Therapeutic cloning (also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, cell nuclear replacement, research cloning, and embryo cloning)...

What is unclear from this simplified description is that what results from this process is a genetically complete human cell. Stem cells are extracted from the developing embryo (at this stage, referred to as a "blastocyst"), destroying the embryo in the process. Left to its own devices, it would develop into a fully formed human being. This point is indisputible. From Clone The Truth:

SCNT is the same in both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. The only difference is whether the cloned embryo is implanted.

Implantation differentiates between therapeutic and reproductive cloning - not the process that yields the embryo in question.

It appears that the Post-Dispatch just got the story completely wrong. From the Kansas City Star, Talent is favoring not SCNT, but a technique known as "altered nuclear transfer" (ANT):

Saying new scientific research may make it possible to create stem cells without cloning human embryos, Sen. Jim Talent on Friday withdrew as co-sponsor of a bill that would ban all human cloning and make it a crime for anyone to take part in the process.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Talent said the alternative research made the bill unnecessary. The new research - called altered nuclear transfer - would provide common ground for people on all sides of the issue, he said.

First, a brief description of ANT:

Altered Nuclear Transfer uses the technology of NT but with a preemptive alteration that assures that no embrye is created. The somatic cell nucleus or the emucleated egg contents (cytoplasm) or both are first altered before the somatic cell nucleus is transferred into the egg. The alterations cause the somatic cell DNA to function in such a way that no embryo is generated, but pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are produced.

"...no embryo is generated, but pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) are produced" - a curious statement, that. In layman's terms, ANT alters the two components prior to the nuclear transfer, such that the embryonic development is genetically altered to prevent the ability of the embryo to develop fully. The claim that the embryo is non-human is clearly untrue; it is simply a human embryo genetically altered to prevent its full development. Contrary to the claims that this method eliminates ethical concerns over SCNT, I find the method to be even more morally repugnant, as researchers assume even more God-like power over the embryo, choosing which will be allowed to develop, and which will not.

ANT still performs a nuclear transfer; this process is, by definition, cloning. Regardless of how the components are genetically altered, the resultant clone still develops enough to produce human embryonic stem cells. Only a human embryo can produce human embryonic stem cells.

Now, on to Senator Talent:

From the article:

In a surprise turnabout, Sen. Jim Talent withdrew his support Friday for a controversial ban on human cloning and offered what he said was a compromise proposal that would heal the deep divide over stem cell research.

...

Talent said his alternative proposal, which he is still developing, would fund a newly emerging technology that avoids the most dicey element of the debate -- the destruction of human embryos that occurs in traditional stem cell research.

...

But even as Talent outlined his new position on Fridays -- saying he’d spent a year researching the issue -- the Missouri senator still declined to take a position on a state initiative petition that has made the stem cell debate so hot at home.

Mr. Talent, with all due respect, if you have "researched the issue" for an entire year, surely you wouldn't make the mistake of trying to differentiate between any form of nuclear transfer and therapeutic cloning. Surely you would know that no such "emerging technology" exists that would avoid the destruction of human embryos. From one of your staunchest supporters, know that you will have a great deal of explaining to do, and will have an extremely difficult time trying to justify this move.

Senator Talent, your argument fails on two points:

First, if ANT, as its proponents claim, is not cloning, and does not produce a human embryo, then it is not inconsistent with a proposed ban on human cloning. Passing such a ban - either federally, or in Missouri - would not prevent research that neither clones human DNA nor produces human embryos.

Second, if ANT is a form of human cloning, and does produce human embryos, then all the same ethical and moral questions remain. It is not then a "compromise" acceptable to both sides of the controversy, as you claim:

"There's a sense on both sides of the controversy that if you propose something that concedes something to the other side, you give up something yourself," Talent said. "It is going to become increasingly clear that the way for both sides to get what they want is to compromise."

Senator Talent, with respect to the destruction of human embryos, we have no intention of compromising on the sanctity of every life, no matter at what point in its development. We have no intention of conceding even a single human life.

Consistent with the Clone the Truth campaign, I am committed to ensuring that the truth about adult and embryonic stem cell and related research is made known. I am likewise committed to ensuring that this deceptively worded and ill-advised ballot initiative is defeated.

UPDATE:
Clone the Truth references this post, and calls ANT a "Trojan Horse."

UPDATE II:
ProLifeBlogs is now running with this story, as well, linking also to Secondhand Smoke, who in turn references Ramesh Ponnuru in NRO.

Not In My Name

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

With all due respect, Ms. Mitchell, you don't speak for this Missourian:

In opening arguments, one lawyer said the wording also conforms to the popular definition of human cloning held by voters.

"Missourians do not believe that a few hundred cells are a cloned human being," said Karen King Mitchell, Missouri's chief deputy attorney general.

The linked St. Louis Post-Dispatch article discusses today's ruling on the wording of a proposed Missouri ballot initiative to allow embryonic stem cell research in the state. The initiative is being pushed by the ironically and hypocritically named Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. As will essentially every other proponent of embryonic stem cell (ESR) research, the coalition makes no attempt to differentiate between adult and embryonic stem cell research, nor to point out that ESR has thus far produced not one viable therapy or cure, nor to point out that, no matter how it is named, the result of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) - otherwise known as "therapeutic" cloning - is, in fact, an embryo. When SCNT is used with a human egg and human DNA, the result is a human embryo.

The key issue with the ballot summary opposition, to me, is the following discrepancy:

The measure would ensure that all stem cell research legal under federal law would remain legal in Missouri. It also states "that no person may clone or attempt to clone a human being."

Critics sued, saying the ballot title for the measure inaccurately states that it would ban human cloning. They say the measure would actually allow a controversial procedure call somatic cell nuclear transfer, which they equate with cloning.

SCNT is not "equated" with cloning, it is cloning - even according to the coalition's own FAQ:

SCNT is sometimes called "therapeutic cloning" because it will use a patient's own cell to make stem cells used for disease therapies.

The coalition - much like most other ESC research proponents - goes to great lengths to attempt to differentiate between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning and argue that only "reproductive" cloning is actually "cloning".

The bottom line is, no matter how much ESC research attempt to redefine the terms, the result of SCNT of a human egg and human DNA is a human embryo. Those ostensibly in support of "lifesaving" cures propose to research those (as yet unproven) cures at the expense of a human life - no matter how many, or how few, cells constitute that life.

Government-Propogated Stem Cell Obfuscation

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

You know, I generally like the HealthFinder.gov web site as a decent roundup of recent studies and information. I don't, however, like it when this government-maintained web site propogates the unnecessary and agenda-driven obfuscation of the stem-cell issue:

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- What had once seemed a giant leap for science has turned out to be not even the smallest of steps -- for now.

Seoul National University's announcement Tuesday that all of Dr. Hwang Woo-suk's apparently groundbreaking research in human stem cells was faked closes a bitter chapter in the quest to find more and better remedies for human illnesses.

Hwang's only legitimate claim is having cloned the world's first dog, Snuppy.

For those who have pinned their professional and personal hopes on stem cells, the shocking disclosure means this area of research is headed back to square one.

"We're back to the beginning in terms of trying to achieve somatic cell nuclear transfer," said Dr. Susan Okie, a contributing editor with the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the uninitiated, "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT) is the technical term otherwise known as "therapeutic cloning" - in other words, embryonic stem cell research. The article, however, makes no mention of the differentiation of types of stem cells, nor that adult stem cell research has already delievered many bona fide treatments and therapies (as of July 2005, the stem-cell scorecard reads: Adult 65, Embryonic 0).

The article's out-of-context doom-and-gloom continues:

Research is being reset to "where we were before, where using somatic cell nuclear transfer to derive stem cells is only a theoretical possibility," added David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethnics. "We're hopeful, but whether it's possible and how long it's going to take is something that is now a complete unknown. This really is a setback in a lot of ways."

The setback is not a death knell for the field, however, experts predicted.

"I think these kinds of experiments will succeed," said Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of the Center for Gene Therapy at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. "They will eventually succeed, and perhaps sometime soon."

While SCNT researchers remain "hopeful" that "these kinds of experiments... will eventually succeed", adult and cord-blood stem-cell therapies already succeed, and without the ethical implications or thus-far false hope of embryonic stem cell research:

Leading proponents of research on embryonic stem cells are themselves lowering expectations that dramatic cures to diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s are just around the corner. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that Lord Winston, the most prominent embryonic-stem-cell researcher in the United Kingdom, said that hopes for cures had been distorted by arrogance and spin.

“I view the current wave of optimism about embryonic stem cells with growing suspicion,” Winston told the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Similarly, South Korean cloning expert Curie Ahn now warns that scientists won’t be able to develop cures from embryonic stem cells for three to five more decades. In experiment after experiment, scientists are learning that embryonic stem cells are too carcinogenic or “wild” for therapeutic purposes.

Back to the article, more mis-information:

The damage to the public's perception of stem cell research is likely to linger, Prokop added: "Every time you say stem cell for a while, people will think 'fraud.'"

Nevertheless, stem cell research with the potential for real breakthroughs continues...

The article's one "more information" source link is to the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), hardly an unbiased source, as ISSCR are ardent supporters of embryonic stem cell research, and their FAQ discounts adult stem cell research as well as the already proven therapies from adult stem cell research.

Pro-Life = “Culture of Death”?

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Methinks this emailer mis-directed her email-based disdain:

The culture of death is you. You have no regard for the lives of living, suffering people. A cell is not a person, but I and millions of others are and our blood is on your hands.

You are cruel, callous, and very evil. Your God will not judge you kindly.

Ovarian cancer survivor, Parkinson's Disease prisoner for 10 years

For reference, this email was sent to ProLifeBlogs.com, whose stated objective is as follows:

The objective of this site is to raise awareness and support for the pre-born and the sanctity of human life by communicating pro-life news and materials and by enabling a community of pro-life bloggers to promote their sites, interact with one another and influence internet readers.

Now, I'm quite sure our vitriolic emailer simply misdirected her missive, having intended to send it instead to Senate Democrats who tried to block a cord blood measure passed overwhelmingly by the house. I'm sure our emailer has not been taken in by the hype surrounding the completely unproven embryonic stem cell research, versus the already proven adult stem cell therapies.

But, in case I'm wrong, how about we give our misguided emailer a reality check, shall we?