Following news that corporate researchers had successfully cloned human embryos using the corporation founder’s own cells, the Vatican on Friday reiterated its condemnation of embryonic cloning research, Reuters reports.
"This ranks among the most morally illicit acts, ethically speaking," said Monsignor Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which studies bioethical issues.
"There isn't even -- I won't say the justification, because it's never justified -- but not even the pretext of finding something (new)," he told Vatican radio.
Monsignor Sgreccia also said the cloning research was unnecessary, given that similar research advances avoid creating and destroying human embryos.
The cleric’s remarks followed Thursday’s announcement from the California-based Stemagen Corp. that it used cloning technology to make five human embryos.
Following the same somatic cell nuclear transfer technique that cloned Dolly the sheep in 1996, the company said it hollowed out an egg cell and injected the nucleus of cells from two donors. One of the donors was reportedly Dr. Samuel Wood, a fertility doctor who founded Stemagen.
Stemagen researchers destroyed all five embryos during testing to verify all the embryos were true clones.
The company hoped to use the cloning technique to create embryos to provide stem cells that could repair devastating injuries and cure diseases. Embryonic stem cells, which are considered particularly powerful because they can generate all types of cells in the human body, are typically harvested in a manner that kills the source embryo.
Other techniques for collecting stem cells do not involve cloning embryos. Ordinary skin cells can be reprogrammed to create what are called induced pluripotent stem cells, which some researchers believe are also promising sources for medical treatments.
Monsignor Sgreccia said he could not understand why some scientists wanted to use human embryos when other sources of stem cells were available.
"You can't know any more if this is all a game… done solely out of the desire to experiment on men and women," Monsignor Sgreccia said.