We are in a national state of emergency. While Congress and the President are managing the war in Afghanistan and while Tom Ridge is working to protect our national security, renegade scientists continue their efforts to clone human beings. Three groups have now said that they have cloned human beings. The latest report came from Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) -- a biotechnology company in Worcester, Massachusetts -- on November 24, 2001.
Imagine hearing the following financial news; "Today, the market in sow bellies is down, soybeans are stable, and the market in human embryos is up." Recent developments in embryonic research have moved us one step closer to that scenario.
There is good news and there is bad news. First, the bad news. Confirming what we knew all along, scientists at the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Virginia, do not think it is sufficient to do research on human embryos that are "going to die anyway," to follow the popular mantra. They announced 11 July 2001 that they intentionally created human embryos from donor eggs and sperm with the sole purpose of conducting destructive research on those nascent humans.
Now that researchers have cloned a sheep, we know that producing identical genetic copies of human beings is also likely possible. The process is novel though the concept is not.
"As things are, there is no reason to assume that anything we might reasonably conceive of doing with living tissues might not be possible; living tissues are proving to be remarkably compliant . . . [We] can look forward to an age in which the understanding of life's mechanisms will be virtually total, that is, the principal systems will be understood molecule by molecule. From this total understanding will come - if we choose - total control. Of course the word 'total' is too absolute.
The January decision of the British House of Lords to allow human embryonic cloning coincided nicely with the publication of Wired magazine's lead article predicting that someone will clone a human in the next twelve months. The decision by the House of Lords is troublesome in many ways. First, the Peers had the opportunity to postpone their decision in favor of establishing a select committee to assist in doing the ethical analysis warranted by such a momentous step.
This Little Piggy Goes to the Organ Market? Cloning, Genetic Engineering, Xenotransplantation and the Drive to be First
In early January, two teams of researchers announced their success in genetically modifying pigs via a cloning technique. Scientists from the University of Missouri and Immerge Bio Therapeutics published details of their achievement in the journal Science; the other company, PPL Therapeutics of Blacksburg, VA, announced the results of their experimentation at a news conference.
Human cloning may soon become an accepted means of producing human embryonic stem cells for use in medical therapies. The Donaldson Report, released in August by a government advisory commission headed by Britain's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson, sanctions the use of just such a practice. If passed by Parliament, Britain would likely become the first country in the world to explicitly permit the cloning of human embryos.
Government-approved human cloning may begin any day now. Already we've seen the cloning of sheep, monkeys, cows, and pigs--a veritable barnyard of clones. Ole McDonald, the mythical farmer, is next. The media reports that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in the United Kingdom has decided to recommend changes to British law to allow the cloning of human beings to create "spare body parts." The government has declined to respond to the reports.