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Image from The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror XIII send in the clones

Image from The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror XIII send in the clones

Last year a paper came out from Shoukhrat Mitalipov’s lab at Oregon University claiming that they had been able to clone human embryos by nuclear transfer (the same method used to clone Dolly the sheep). Mitalipov’s group also asserted in that paper that they were able to generate embryonic stem cell lines from those embryos. Moral troubles aside, many of us were sceptical (It had been a long coming).

This week scientists from USA and Korea reported that they have successfully reproduced Mitalipov’s method. This confirms that cloning of human embryos by nuclear transfer -something that for decades had been technically unachievable- is possible. It has been mentioned that reprogrammed adult stem cells may have disadvantages compared with embryonic stem cells (including epigenetic markers that have not being completely erased). However, for all their presumed scientific disadvantages, it seems to me still that reprogramming  of adult cells –rather than cloning, generation of embryos, and production of embryonic cell lines- will be the way forward for stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

 

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  • Alex Antonites 08/05/2014 at 5:43 am

    If I understand it correctly, the cloning of human embryos is not only possible. It indeed happened. Does the same apply to the extraction of stem cells from the embryo referred to above?

    • Ariel Poliandri 08/05/2014 at 5:45 am

      You are right Alex. Last year Mitalipov’s lab created the first cloned human embryo. An embryonic cell line was derived from that embryo (a previous claim in 2004 was discredited in a high profile case of scientific misconduct). This year 3 other labs reproduced Mitalipov’s lab work. One of those labs even made an embryo cloning a diabetic patient and generated an embryonic cell lines from it. I dare predicting that there will be more labs reproducing the technique this year. I am putting together a longer post on the subject

      • Shan 14/07/2014 at 5:20 am

        ****UPDATE****So this past month, two organizations have filed silamir, but slightly different, personhood initiatives that were both heard in front of a judge to determine if they passed the minimum requirements for initiatives. In the first instance, the Judge ruled that the initiative proposed by the Nevada Pro-life Coalition did not violate the single-subject rule but the description of effect was vague and therefore the judge reworded the description to include the far-reaching consequences of this amendment passing. Nevada Pro-Life Coalition can now collect signatures to get the amendment on the ballot in an upcoming election unless they decide to challenge the judge’s ruling. In the second instance, the judge ruled that the initiative put forth by Personhood USA did in violate the single-subject rule for initiatives and dismissed the initiative. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how Nevadans respond to these initiatives.

  • Sohan Modak 30/04/2014 at 9:13 am

    Technically, why not? But, then, I can just see texas billionnaires jumping at it instead of freezing their bodies for a future ‘bod’ !

    • Chrisamy 14/07/2014 at 12:35 am

      ****UPDATE****So this past month, two organizations have filed smaliir, but slightly different, personhood initiatives that were both heard in front of a judge to determine if they passed the minimum requirements for initiatives. In the first instance, the Judge ruled that the initiative proposed by the Nevada Pro-life Coalition did not violate the single-subject rule but the description of effect was vague and therefore the judge reworded the description to include the far-reaching consequences of this amendment passing. Nevada Pro-Life Coalition can now collect signatures to get the amendment on the ballot in an upcoming election unless they decide to challenge the judge’s ruling. In the second instance, the judge ruled that the initiative put forth by Personhood USA did in violate the single-subject rule for initiatives and dismissed the initiative. It will be interesting to see in the coming months how Nevadans respond to these initiatives.

  • Margaret Franklin 29/04/2014 at 4:32 pm

    This is scary, whatever about sheep, I am not happy about the cloning of human embryos.

    • Ariel Poliandri 29/04/2014 at 4:33 pm

      I am not entirely comfortable with this myself (although I do not blindly oppose it). That is why I think making everyone aware about this research is important.

  • Donald Calbreath 28/04/2014 at 7:44 pm

    I have served on and chaired university ethics committees (institutional review boards). The only ethical review done deals with any possible harm to human subjects involved in the study under consideration. There is no examination of the wider ethical issues, which is why both federal and state legislators have tried to impose some boundaries in terms of what will be funded. Unfortunately, those boundaries are rapidly eroding.

  • Donald Calbreath 28/04/2014 at 6:41 pm

    “Moral troubles aside…” Yes, there are some significant moral issues involved. We are headed down a very troublesome path and the science seems to take precedence over the ethics of the situation.

    • Ariel Poliandri 28/04/2014 at 6:42 pm

      Science does not take precedence over ethics; they operate in two completely different fields. Science does not tell you what to do; it may tell you how to do something if you choose to do it.
      I am more than sure that the work carried in these labs (at least in the US) was approved by an ethics committee. We can agree or not with that approval, but it was certainly debated. I would have argued that the experiments were unnecessary: they would have been useful in 2005 but not after 2006. Having said that, it could be important to compare isogenic embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed adult stem cells.

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