British Government Approves Human Cloning Project

On February 8, the British government gave a team of scientists permission to clone human embryos for medical research. Legal in the UK since 2001, this is only the second cloning project the government has allowed.

Led by Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly the sheep, the team plans to study motor neuron disease, or MND. The disease kills motor neurons—cells in the brain and spinal cord that control movement. MND affects about 350,000 people, and kills 100,000 each year. Wilmut's team wants to study what goes wrong in the afflicted nerve cells.

Learn how Stem Cells Form in Your Body

Many scientists want to clone embryos for stem cells, to see if these can be used to repair or replace damaged body parts. Stem cells, which appear when embryos are just a few days old, develop into every kind of cell in the body. Scientists think they can harvest early stem cells and direct them to form new tissues to treat diseases ranging from Parkinson's to diabetes.

Wilmut, however, does not plan to grow replacement tissue. Instead, he wants to clone embryos from patients with MND, make the stem cells develop into nerve cells, and then compare their development to nerve cells from healthy embryos. The cells he creates can also be used to try out new drugs to treat the disease. Wilmut's experiments will produce no cloned babies, and the embryos will be destroyed after experiments.

Some patients' groups and researchers are excited. They think studying human embryo cells will provide more information and better treatments for disease animal experiments alone. But other groups are opposed. They think human cloning, especially the creation of embryos for experimentation and later destruction, is unethical.

What do you think? Should scientists be able to clone and destroy human embryos if it means they might be able to treat or cure diseases?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Scientists in Italy have confirmed that "professional soccer players have a higher than normal risk of developing a type of motor neuron disease" called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as "Lou Gherig's disease."

Does this mean that playing soccer somehow predisposes people to developing the disease? Probably not. But similar clusters of ALS incidents have been found among American football players. A number of possible causes are being investigated.

"There could be some quality in [sports players'] neuromuscular make-up that not only makes them good at sport, football particularly, but also makes them susceptible to ALS."
BBC News

posted on Thu, 02/24/2005 - 5:07pm
Stella's picture
Stella says:

I have a question about cloning. I read a while ago that there was a new form of therapeutic cloning technique that used an egg cell and "fertilized" it by reinserting its own final polar body-getting an egg with 46 chromosomes without having to use any other cell. But I thought that the egg cell was considered a(n) haploid cell after the first division of meiosis, even though each chromosome left in the cell were still attached sister chromatis? So, if the polar body is reintroduced into the egg cell, you would still (I'm thinking) have a(n) haploid cell with, now separated, sister chromatids. If this isn't a problem in development, why wouldn't it occur every so often naturally?

posted on Thu, 02/24/2005 - 5:26pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Dr. Nobuaki Kikyo, of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute, E-mailed me a reply to your question.

"If you re-introduce the polar body into an oocyte, the oocyte will now contain two sets of sister chromatids (=2n). Mammalian embryos derived from these kinds of oocytes cannot develop normally and die during gestation since normal mammalian development requires genomic DNA derived both from mother (=oocytes) and father (=sperm). This is because some genes can be expressed only from maternally-derived DNA and other genes only from paternally-derived DNA. This phenomenon is called genomic imprinting. Genomic imprinting has been observed in several mammalian species and some insects, but not in amphibians and fish. Parthenogenesis (development from oocytes without fertilization) is widely observed in fish and frogs although the frequency is not high in nature."

Does this answer your question? I'm very intrigued, now, so if it doesn't, leave another post and I'll try to get a further response!

posted on Mon, 03/07/2005 - 12:58pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Scientists in France have discovered a way to turn off or supress the gene that causes some cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal motor neuron disease also known as Lou Gherig's disease.

The technique, called RNA interference, delayed the onset and progression of ALS in mice. And the scientists were also able to get normal, healthy copies of the gene to motor neuron cells.

5000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS every year. They experience gradual paralysis and eventually can't use any muscles, including those needed to speak, swallow, or breathe.

Patrick Aebischer, co-author of the study and president of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale du Lausanne, says he would not be surprised to see the technique used to treat human diseases of the nervous system in the next ten years.

posted on Fri, 03/18/2005 - 3:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

no we should not be cloned. we were born unique by cloning us they are stripping us of our individuality. scientists should leave us alone we are not guinea pigs and do not deserve to be treated like one.we are called the human race not the cloned race

posted on Thu, 10/26/2006 - 7:53am
Jefflemus00's picture
Jefflemus00 says:

I think that cloning is 1 of the most controvertial topics in science and government today, I personally think, cloning could be benificial, if we find a good reason to. I mean, 1 that i can think of is sending clones to war, so our "real" humans dont have to risk their lives for something that can be protected by created clones. Its a murky topic.

posted on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 6:45pm
Jeff Y.'s picture
Jeff Y. says:

Cloning is a good thing not a bad thing .Legalizing cloning is the right thing to do. Cloning organs and kidneys is ok but cloning a human is not right or moral. Cloning is not used for being god. Cloning is for helping people live longer. Cloning organs, kidneys, and hearts can save thousands of lives. Cloning animals can also be useful. When you clone enormous amounts of animals it could prevent extinction and could prevent starvation. I do not believe in human cloning because I believe there will be chaos and riots and problems of clones being identical. Cloning animals for food on the other hand can prevent extinction and prevent starvation with the cloning of animals.
If you had a parent who was waiting for an organ, kidney, or heart transplant and was waiting on a list wouldn’t you do anything to help your parent even use a clone of an organ, kidney, or a heart to make sure they live longer? The evidence speaks for itself if you clone the right things it can save thousands of lives. Cloning will save thousands of lives and change people’s lives around the world and for people struggling to afford food for their children.

posted on Mon, 04/19/2010 - 7:31am

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