Scientists object to therapeutic cloning

There’s more than moral reason to object to therapeutic cloning, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the latest communication from its pro-life office.

The idea of cloning human embryos for biomedical research has traditionally raised moral objections but also it now continues to raise objections in the scientific community on purely scientific grounds. 

Despite initial optimistic statements about how embryonic cloning – also referred to as therapeutic cloning – could potentially cure life-threatening diseases, many scientists no longer expect therapeutic cloning to have a large clinical impact.

In order to highlight these scientific conclusions, the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-life Activities issued a collection of excerpts from recent articles in leading science magazines. Each excerpt argues against therapeutic cloning, based on scientific findings and laboratory research.

Among the many excerpts, the USCCB sites a 2002 report in the 14th volume of Current Opinion in Cell Biology, which says: “Importantly, irrespective of the donor cell, clones display common abnormalities such as foetal and placental overgrowth. Indeed, gene expression analyses and extensive phenotypic characterization of cloned animals suggest that most, if not all, clones suffer from at least subtle abnormalities.”

In addition, scientists have found that the majority of cloned animals die after implantation.

Another report printed this month in Nature Biotechnology says that that there are no advantages to cloned cells since “cells obtained by ‘therapeutic cloning’ will probably have the same life span as normal cells but may have abnormal gene expression caused by epigenetic errors.”

A recent article in The Age magazine reports that “leading stem-cell researcher Alan Trounson has abandoned his call for therapeutic cloning, saying scientific breakthroughs mean there is now no need for the controversial technique.” He added that he knows of “at least three or four other alternatives that are more attractive.”

For more excerpts, go to the USCCB Web site:

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