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Stanford Jumps Into Cloning Fray 316

smackthud writes "According to this article in the Minneapolis StarTribune website Stanford University is planning to clone human embryos. Story summary says it all: 'Stanford University announced today its intention to clone human embryos, becoming the first U.S. university to publicly embrace the politically charged procedure. The intent of the project is to produce stem cells for medical research.'" Stanford has released a statement distinguishing what Stanford is doing from reproductive cloning.
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Stanford Jumps Into Cloning Fray

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  • just asking.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:40AM (#4861369)
    ...Begun, this clone war has......
  • Brave and Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by e8johan ( 605347 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:42AM (#4861372) Homepage Journal

    "The intent of the project is to produce stem cells for medical research."

    The benefits of this is to great to avoid doing it. If the cells are not cloned in the US, they will be bought from abroad, so the result will be the same anyway. Brave of Stanford to dare doing this in the US anyhow!

    • Re:Brave and Good (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:49AM (#4861401)
      here in the .au we (sorry, our "elected representatives") have just signed a bill saying that embryos made for IVF treatment that subsequently aren't used in IVF treatment will be available for sale abroad. we can't do our own stem cell research, but we can sell our conglomerates of cells OS, so yeah - you shouldn't have a shortage...
      • Wasn't the law something like this.

        Unused IVF embryos collected before a nominal date would be available for medical use in australia, but not those after.

        I think the nominal date was about the time they announced the proposed law, with the intention of preventing embryos beiong produced for harvesting, but allowing embryos already produced for IVF, that would ahve to be destroyed anyway, to be used for research.

    • Sweden will probably be a source of stem cells. This solution has been suggested by Bush's administration.
      • Re:Brave and Good (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lars Arvestad ( 5049 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:31AM (#4861527) Homepage Journal
        Sweden will probably be a source of stem cells. This solution has been suggested by Bush's administration.

        I think the decision was that US govt funded research would only be allowed on existing cell lines. At the time of the decision, Sweden supposedly had the largest number of cell lines, and would therefore be the main provider. Consequently, research funding organisations in the US have already started funding some research in Sweden.

        Note that if new cell lines are produced from new embryos, even in other countries, they would not be allowed in US govt funded research.

        Since the decision, there have been some suggestions of obtaining human cell lines from other sources, but I don't think it has been shown to work yet.

    • The important question is - does that crackpot doctor really have a clone growing to be born in january? I sure hope so. Not because I think cloning people is a good thing (not in this form anyway), but because it'll be a reassuring sign that science can and will go forward, even if the "won't sombody think of the children" brigade are against it.
  • cloning (Score:4, Funny)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:45AM (#4861383) Homepage
    cloning, nature's way of saying: imagine a beowulf cluster of yourself!
  • Ranting and Ravings (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benevold ( 589793 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:46AM (#4861385) Homepage Journal
    It would seem even the mighty media can mislead us! Maybe the perception of the average person is changing but it seems that most people can't distinguish between cloning human cells and cloning a human. Most people see cloning as the bad sci-fi movies portray it, person goes in onside of the machine, two or more people come out the other side, identical in every way. Blah BLah Blah, it goes on and on. Hopefully one of these days the journalists will do some informed research before posting these things.
    • If that cell is an embryo, what's the difference?
  • by giel ( 554962 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:46AM (#4861387) Journal

    SU researchers probably will have to clone stem cells of human embryos, which is something different (in my opinion) than cloning human embryos.

    Still an interesting question remains. If they will clone stem cells, will that be a next step to the cloning of human beings? Usually having a technique means it will be used...

  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:48AM (#4861393) Homepage
    The intent of the project is to produce stem cells for medical research.

    And why isn't everyone doing this? Oh right, it's against the presidents religious beliefs. Is it really suprising that people would rather pursue research that might aid in a cure for cancer, rather than follow a law set by Bush that stem cell research is against his religious beliefs?
    • by Dale Dunn ( 561102 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:25AM (#4861507)
      I imagine there are plenty of people who would limit stem cell research for non-religious reasons. After all, this quickly degenerates into an abortion debate.

      Pro-life reasoning is that human life deserves protection all the way back to conception. Pro-abortion reasoning is that human life deserves protection only after some period of development (varying according to who's talking). Pro-life groups advocate protection all the way back to conception because they see no rational reason to draw the line anywhere else.

      It is therefore not necessarily a religious motivation under which Bush limited stem cell research. Not that it wasn't a religious motivation. But an experienced politician at the top of the game knows better than to try to legislate his religious ideas without a separate rational argument.

      If you don't want to protect human life as an embryo, why should your human life be protected now? What is your argument that your life is intrinsically more valuable than a human embryo to be used in stem cell research, or the Jews experimented on by the Nazis? Where and how do you draw the line at where the value of human life begins?

      The question of when to begin protection of human life, embryo, fetus, child or adult must precede any argument for other uses of potentially adult human embryos, no matter how useful or convenient any use or disuse of the embyo may be. If a human life is deserving of the same rights as any adult or child then no one else has any right to determine how that life is to be spent.

      • Here's a hint (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cat_jesus ( 525334 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:59AM (#4861690)
        Your use of the word "Pro-abortion" gives your position away immediately. No matter how rational you try to make yourself sound, you kill your argument by using such rhetoric.

        To answer your question, you are not a human being until you have a functioning brain. An embryo is not a human but rather human tissue with the potential to become a human. Potential is not actual. I have a penis therefor I am potentially a rapist. I am not a rapist, however.

        The difference is not as subtle as you believe.
        • Re:Here's a hint (Score:2, Insightful)

          by MadKeithV ( 102058 )
          Women can rape too, you know ;-).

          (i.e. a penis is not a prerequisite for being a potential rapist, breathing will suffice).
        • Re:Here's a hint (Score:3, Insightful)

          by timeOday ( 582209 )
          Your use of the word "Pro-abortion" gives your position away immediately. No matter how rational you try to make yourself sound, you kill your argument by using such rhetoric.
          What's the correct term? "Pro-choice" is a laughable euphemism, considering it avoids specific mention of the issue at hand. The term could apply just as well to the NRA or the ACLU. Even the Southern Confederacy felt they were fighting for the "freedom" to own slaves.
          • Re:Here's a hint (Score:4, Insightful)

            by tomdarch ( 225937 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @11:10AM (#4862648)
            What's the correct term? "Pro-choice" is a laughable euphemism, considering it avoids specific mention of the issue at hand.

            Yes, let's address the exact issue at hand. Try "anti-prohibition". The choice to abort a pregnancy always exists, wether it's a (relatively) safe and legal medical proceedure, a coat hanger or jumping in front of a truck. We will never 'stop abortion.' The distinction is wether people want to impose their religious beliefs on others by means of our government through a legal prohibition. Remember that a legal prohibition will be as effective as our legal prohibition on certain drugs.

            I think that the solution to the abortion 'problem' is for all of us to make the changes necessary to make the need for abortions as rare as possible.

            • I think that the solution to the abortion 'problem' is for all of us to make the changes necessary to make the need for abortions as rare as possible.

              I agree. I'd much rather see abortions never be needed in the first place, especially as a pro-lifer. I hope that one day when medicine and society advances to the point that unwanted children are extremely rare and nigh impossible that we look back on these days with as much horror as we looked back on forced eugenics and slavery. When reproduction is fully a matter of responsible choice instead of an accident that can be "fixed" we'll be a much more mature society all around.
          • Re:Here's a hint (Score:4, Insightful)

            by cje ( 33931 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @12:02PM (#4863066) Homepage
            What's the correct term? "Pro-choice" is a laughable euphemism ..

            If "pro-choice" is inappropriate, then "pro-abortion" is even more so. As an example, take my stance. I believe that with regards to an issue that deeply divides so many people and has no real scientific consensus either way, it is not the job of the government to step in and make a decision for everybody. Rather, it is up to individuals (with the help of their families, medical professionals, etc.) to exercise a bit of personal responsibility and make their own choice.

            Personally, if I were ever in a situation involving an unwanted pregnancy, I can tell you that abortion would not be a consideration .. not for one minute. However, I do not presume to make that decision for everybody. Now, by your terminology, I am "pro-abortion." I hope you can understand why many reasonable folks object to this slur and consider it to be little more than an emotionally-loaded phrase concoted purely for debate purposes.
            • I believe that with regards to an issue that deeply divides so many people and has no real scientific consensus either way, it is not the job of the government to step in and make a decision for everybody. Rather, it is up to individuals...
              Unfortunately, I would argue most important questions have no scientific consensus. Science doesn't tell us when war is justified, how to spread the tax burden fairly, or when to take ill-parented children into protective custody.

              And for that matter, scientific conclusions have no bearing on government until values (moral judgement) are applied to them. For instance, science may produce studies showing that taking drugs or not wearing a seatbelt are bad for you. But does that mean these things should be illegal?

              I don't think there is any way to avoid moral issues in government. Even the choice to do nothing is full of consequence.

          • Re:Here's a hint (Score:4, Insightful)

            by DarkZero ( 516460 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @12:16PM (#4863204)
            Your Handy Abortion Rant Guide:

            Pro-choice & Anti-choice = Pro-abortion bias
            Pro-life & pro-abortion = Anti-abortion bias
            Pro-abortion & anti-abortion = Reasonable Individual

            Both "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are marketing euphemisms that try to make a political opinion more positive. Both have to be "pro-" something because "pro-" is an inherently positive, reaffirming prefix and both try to connect a simple idea ("I'm for the right to abort!" or "I'm against the right to abort!") with a word that sounds very positive and politically correct, thus the "pro-" is added to "choice" or "life". Put simply, it's total fucking bullshit.

            The exact wording may be changed slightly, but I think you get the idea. The person that strays from "life" and "choice" and into something more reasonable like "abortion", "abortion rights", "the right to abort", etc. is the only one worth listening to, because they're the most likely to view the discussion in a reasonable manner.
            • The person that strays from "life" and "choice" and into something more reasonable like "abortion", "abortion rights", "the right to abort", etc. is the only one worth listening to, because they're the most likely to view the discussion in a reasonable manner.

              I would disagree that use of the terms "abortion rights" and "the right to abort" implies an open-minded person. Any time you describe something as a "right" you are already presuming that the "pro" side is the correct one. The opposition in such cases always vehemently denies that the debated topic is a right and does not use that term.

              The right to bear arms vs. gun-control
              Civil rights vs. integration
              Gay rights vs. "special privileges for gays"

              Along those lines, I think that "legalized abortion" is a much more neutral term, much like "legalized drugs" or "legalized gambling." It's a much more balanced term that talks simply about the matter at hand -- whether or not the activity in question should be legal.
        • Don't be a twit, there are only two positions:

          Anti abortion and Pro abortion. Using childish euphamisms may make you feel better, but pro-choice is still a buzzword that doesn't mean anything. The choice is: abortion acceptable or abortion unacceptable.

          People use euphamisms because they want to change the perspective on the agruement without adding any relevant logic or arguments, not unlike you tried to do. His choice of "Pro-abortion" doesn't invalidate his arguement. What other choices are encompassed by the 'pro-choice' movement? Is it defending woman's right to choose between a snowcone or a slurpy? I doubt it.

          It's like saying you are "Pro-gun control." Well no shit. Everyone in the entire world is "pro-gun control" with a few psycopathic exceptions. Who believes people should leave guns laying around on the streets or in kid's desks at school? EVERYONE wants some measure of gun control.

          Just like everyone wants some measure of choice, the DEBATE is whether the choice should be a legal one, based on other laws regarding property, murder, and the state's accepted definition of life. In other words, Anti-abortion or Pro-abortion.

          It takes more than a penis to rape someone. It takes an action. If you can identify the exact moment it becomes legal to kill an invalid, or the exact moment a lump of flesh becomes human, you are a better man that I.

          At what point do you consider it a functioning brain? Does it have to be FULLY functioning?

          A link for you: Human Sentience Before Birth [care.org.uk]

          • 6.1 Summary
            After 5.5 weeks of growth (7.5 weeks from the woman's last period) the unborn baby responds to touch and brain development is underway.


          If it responds to touch is it a baby or a lump of flesh?
          • Anti abortion and Pro abortion. Using childish euphamisms may make you feel better, but pro-choice is still a buzzword that doesn't mean anything. The choice is: abortion acceptable or abortion unacceptable.

            Don't be a twit. I'm pro-abortion! I think EVERYONE should have been aborted!

            Pro-choice is the logical term here, since it is in the middle of the 2 binary states (all or none).

          • then by your criteria:
            If it responds to touch is it a baby or a lump of flesh?


            Embryonic Stem cell research and therapeutic cloning are not part of the abortion debate.

            So why is the Religious Right hijacking this issue to use as a weapon in their war on abortion?
      • I imagine there are plenty of people who would limit stem cell research for non-religious reasons.
        I doubt it. Nobody really believes that all human life should be protected. Every cell in your body is human, and we shed cells all the time, but nobody is concerned about protecting them. Sperm and ova are human, yet nobody worries about protecting them. Yet there is absolutely nothing present at conception that wasn't in the sperm and egg before the moment before. Abstinence is even considered a virtue, even though it insures the death of a human ovum. The only semi-rational reason for objecting to stem-cell research is the religious belief that there is something magical and undetectable--a soul--that enters an embryo at conception (presumably with another being provided later on if the embryo twins).
  • Finally time that someone in the higher echelons of education stand up to the US government.

    I feel rather ecstatic about this, someone is finally making a point.

    I was rather angry at Bush when he decided to limit stem cell research. I felt that his decision was affected directly by his religious beliefs.

    Science and religion don't mix. Looks like someone is finally trying to seperate them.
    • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:44AM (#4861603) Homepage Journal
      It's not about science and religion, but science and ethics. Without making an ethics check now and then, the scientific community may find itself moving further from Hippocrates and closer to Mengele.

      Bush's decision was based on his own moral standard, which does happen to have a biblical base. Others may have a moral system based on other religions, or a professional standard such as the Hippocratic Oath, or some amorphous PC nonstandard that changes from day to day, depending on which special interest group wants justification for their "lifestyle".

      As we move closer to the end of the age, look for more decisions to be made based on the "common good", "world order", and "tolerance" rather than individual rights and dignity.

      • As we move closer to the end of the age, look for more decisions to be made based on the "common good", "world order", and "tolerance" rather than individual rights and dignity.

        Precisely what do "individual rights" and "dignity" have to do with a cluster of cells that, I quote (from the official Stanford press release), "cannot on their own develop into a human"? Please. This is not reproductive cloning. This is actually about the same, in terms of "dignity" or "individual rights" as a pacemaker.

        Just because it comes from human tissue doesn't make it human, or do you give your toenail clippings funerals? Ever done that experiment in science class using epithelial cells? Did you feel like a murderer after you scraped the inside of your cheek?

        Anyway, I don't know where your perspective is coming from, but you ought to at least RTFA before you rant.
      • Sorry, but what is wrong with making decisions based on tolerance?

        I have often found it to be the case that people who dislike the words "pc" and "tolerance" only have respect for some individual rights -- the ones they recognize -- but not others. (abortion, for instance?) It is unfair to demand dignity for one way of life while rejecting that dignity for others.

        Tolerance is about treating everyone with respect. It's the golden rule -- treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Is that such a bad guideline?
    • I was rather angry at Bush when he decided to limit stem cell research. I felt that his decision was affected directly by his religious beliefs.

      GWB's religious beliefs do not seem to be slowing him down from a pointless war against Iraq in which a number of non-combatants will become "colateral damage"...

      I guess he is able to choose when his beliefs come into play and when they can be cast aside...
      • He didn't stand to make money from stem-cell research like he might from big oil as a result of this war.

        Simple, really.

  • Inevitable (Score:2, Funny)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
    How else are those wrinkled up old bastards who decided they'd rather make money than have kids going to reproduce themselves?

    It's this or immigration :P
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:51AM (#4861405)
    STATEMENT FROM STANFORD UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER:
    [snip]This is the same first step as in reproductive cloning. However in creating a stem cell line, cells are removed from the developing cluster.[/snip]

    Dave returns from a 3 month holiday:
    "So how many cells did you harvest while I was away?"
    Bob the student:
    "oh, shit, I just left that experiment in the incubator"
    Dave:
    "So, just how many months is it before a foetus is considered a human being?!"
  • by webbge ( 633199 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @07:58AM (#4861435)
    I'm not opposed to abortion but this seems pretty weasley (no offense to weasles) way to get out of the abortion issue. Lets just get on with stem cell research and quit playing games. Stanford takes the high road and explain their "clean" procedure (parenthetical quotes are mine):

    Creating human stem cell lines is not equivalent to reproductive cloning. The first step in the process of creating a stem cell line involves transferring the nucleus from a cell to an egg and allowing the egg to divide. This is the same first step as in reproductive cloning. However in creating a stem cell line, cells (parts of the fetus) are removed (dismembered) from the developing cluster (fetus). These cells can go on to form many types of tissues, but cannot on their own develop into a human (because they are just pieces of dismembered human tissue).

    How is this procedure different from whats going on in the rest of the world? I guess the Christian right wingers can sleep well at night now.
  • by Captain Large Face ( 559804 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:03AM (#4861442) Homepage

    What is the world coming to?
    What is the world coming to?


  • Rimmer: "Can you imagine a society composed entirely of me?"

    CAT: I'm trying not to, last time I did that it took me a week to dry the matress!
  • Now we must beware the Robotech Masters who will surely launch an attack on Stanford in order to learn the secrets of humanity's ultimate power!!
  • I'm glad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:20AM (#4861492) Homepage Journal
    I've always been of the opinion that cloning, genetic engineering, etc were Good Things. This is technology that can potentially cure genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis or Huntington's disease in people who already suffer from it as well as prevent it from ever showing up in the first place. Then of course there is cancer. Imagine treatments that would simply repair the sections of our DNA sequence that MUST be damaged in order for any cancer to form. Forget radiation and chemotherapy that are simply attempts to kill the cancer without killing the patient. Fix the anti-cancer genes in the cancer cells and they kill themselves.

    I think that genetic engineering can, in the hands of those who are honest, wise, and well intentioned, also be used to enhance human abilities without trying to alter human nature. Human nature might not be perfect, but I don't trust anyone to try and make it better. This is where genetic engineering gets risky in my opinion, when it gives people with an agenda for who and what mankind should be the tools to warp human beings into their twisted model of human behavior. Just imagine if the looney left or the religious right were to become the keepers of the technology. How many bolsheviks and bible thumpers could they create? There are already enough idiots and brainwashed buffoons in the world without a breeding program to manufacture them.

    Anyway I'm glad this is being done by Stanford. Of course you'll hear nothing but screaming from the idiots of the world, but such is the burden of scientific progress. At least nowadays you don't have to worry about the inquisition murdering you for daring to contradict the codified superstition that passes for mankind's understanding of the divine.

    Lee
    • Re:I'm glad. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by m00nun1t ( 588082 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:36AM (#4861554) Homepage
      You stating that people are "idiots" purely on the grounds of having a contrary view to your own throws doubts on the accuracy of the direction of the pointed finger, regardless of whether or not you are right.
      • Re:I'm glad. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:06AM (#4861727) Homepage Journal
        I don't call people idiots for having contrary views, I call them idiots when I believe their views are not derived from rational thought and careful consideration. People who merely disagree with me I call fools ;)

        Perhaps idiot is the wrong word. I could call them gullible, or sheep, or easily led. I could call them brainwashed or buffaloed too. But since actions speak louder than the thoughts that create them, I think I'll just call them idiots.

        Lee
    • I think that genetic engineering can, in the hands of those who are honest, wise, and well intentioned, also be used to enhance human abilities without trying to alter human nature.

      Good intentions always lead to good results, right? I'm sorry, but eugenics is a repugnant concept. Diversity is a powerful means to survival. Take a look at what is happening to purebred dogs right now. In order to enhance the characteristics that are desirable for a given breed, the dogs are being interbred too much and the results have been unpredictable. Sure, we get the characteristics we are looking for, but with undesired and unintended consequences. Most purebred dogs simply do not have the lifespan they used to, and they develop more and more complicated health issues than your average mutt.

      Why? - because the gene pool is getting too shallow. I don't think that is the fate we want for humanity, regardless of how noble the original intentions.
    • Prelude: Stem cell research good, IMHO.

      I think that genetic engineering can, in the hands of those who are honest, wise, and well intentioned, also be used to enhance human abilities without trying to alter human nature.

      How many people have you really met like that? REALLY?

      I've found zero. Including myself.

      People are short sighted, limited, and selfish. Technology that CAN be used for personal gain, will be. Besides, even if you find one of the hypothetical people to use the technology in this fashion, I will personally bet you $100 that there will be at LEAST 100 who use the technology for one of the following reasons:
      1. Decide the gender of the child (They want a boy child.)
      2. Decide appearance only attributes of a child (Blue eyes, blond hair, etc)
      3. They want someone who looks exactly like them.

      Human nature is to act like animals, only more-so.
  • by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:27AM (#4861512) Homepage
    Stem cell research is perhaps the MOST promissing medical research ever ... It would be a crime to not allow it. I'm ok with the government restricting funds for it, but don't disallow private institutions (or publically funded ones if those public funds aren't going to the research) to persue it.

    Of course that's not to say I wouldn't mind seeing some public funds go to it! But in the US, public funds are supposed to go where the people want it. If the majority of citizens don't want it, then that's what the government should do.

    That brings up the question... what does the majority want?

    I know 2 people with MS (not microsoft)... if this can help them, then why not?
    • And you know what? It isn't a crime to allow it. As long as a public research or education institute uses federal money in their respective stem cell programs, they are limited to a small set of approved cell-lines. What they choose to do with their own private money is their own damn business.

      The voting public apparently agrees that federal money should be restricted; if there really was any strong opposition, then the results of November's election would have shown otherwise.
  • by rhwalker22 ( 581141 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:38AM (#4861568) Homepage
    Read The Washington Post's article [washingtonpost.com], which notes: "The new institute, which will aim to create stem cell therapies for cancer and other diseases, is to be established with $12 million from an anonymous donor. Under a Bush administration policy announced last year, federally funded researchers wishing to work with human embryonic stem cells must limit their endeavors to a small number of approved cell colonies created before Aug. 9, 2001. But because the Stanford institute will be privately funded, researchers there will be able to create and experiment on new colonies."

    • Meanwhile, 12 million is the size of a single grant of hundreds that NIH and NSF fund for promising research in other areas, and this years version of the Brownback bill, barely stopped by the Democrats last year, will make the doctors working at this Stanford Center federal criminals [camradvocacy.org] in a few months.

      Heck, the US Congress is set to make patients who travel to other countries for therapeutic cloning related therapies into federal criminals.

      I think the term is: "Woo Hoo".
  • THIS IS NOT CLONING (Score:3, Informative)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @08:53AM (#4861653) Journal
    I forget the name, but it technically is not cloning! Though it's moving a nucleus from a real person to an egg, it's not cloning.

    Furthermore, there's some 19-ish (bio majors correct me) cell limit before it becomes and embryo. It's not getting something that resembles a human and tearing it apart for cells, as it never gets past a very small ball of [stem] cells!
  • I'm glad that Stanford has stepped up and decided to defy Bush's stance on stem-cell research. This is one of the most promising areas of Biology, and it's absolutely ridiculous to cut it off.

    I don't quite remember at what point biologists declare a zygote to be an actual embryo; the last time I touched Developmental Biology was 2 years ago. However, if I remember techniques correctly, we can stop division when the zygote is at the 8-cell stage, possibly sooner. I believe the blastula stage (hollow ball of cells) is generally considered to be the real "start" of an embryo, but again, my recollection is a tad hazy.

    I think a lot of the misconceptions being tossed around related to cloning are quite interesting. I only hope that people will realize one day that the concept of the "mad scientist" is more than a little ludicrous, and that cloning human beings is quite a ways off, as is the concept of producing genetic "supermen". Of course, the media, being sensationalist to begin with, will continue to misrepresent the facts, and the general populace will continue to be misinformed.

    That's not to say that when I'm done with my Biology degree (and probably my Ph.D. too) that I'm not going to attempt to take over the world with an army of cloned gorilla-men, but that's a different story altogether. :)
  • On the same day that Stanford announced their intention to clone human embryos for stem cell research, researchers in France announced that they can essentially cure sickle cell disease via stem cells. A great story was written about this here [scifitoday.com] yesterday. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease that affects people of African, Mediterranean, Indian, and Middle Eastern heritage. In the United States, these disorders are most commonly observed in African Americans and Hispanics from the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. To my knowledge, this is the first case in which researchers actually believe that a disease can be "cured" via stem cells. This should definitely put the pressure on governments to open the doors to stem cell research.
    • What governments? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by danro ( 544913 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @12:01PM (#4863056) Homepage
      This should definitely put the pressure on governments to open the doors to stem cell research.

      Interesting. Now, tell me, what governments (except the US) has closed those doors, to begin with?
      You know, there are several lines of stem cells being researched upon within a 10km radius of me even as I write this.

      The only effect of US religious rights conniption over stem cells is that the US get harder to keep up in this area of science (and, to be fair, this might slow the progression of the science somewhat).
      But still, in the long run, it doesn't change a thing.
  • by Futurian ( 152084 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @09:49AM (#4861979)
    Todays New York Times has an article [nytimes.com] about stem cells which are harvested from the bone marrow of adults, instead of from embryos. These cells are "multipotent" which means that they seem to be as versatile as embryonic stem cells in their ability to differentiate into many types of cells. The discovery of these cells by Dr. Catherine M. Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota is a fantastic accomplishment with extraordinary potential. Adult stem cells which are harvested from a body and then used to construct tissue for reimplantation will automatically match up immunologically.

    The therapeutic cloning approach of the Stanford researchers also has great potential, but the process of creating and destroying embryos to harvest stem cells seems to be more complicated than using adult stem cells. Further, some experiments in which embryonic stem cells were reimplanted ominously gave rise to carcinomas. Many research scientists think both approaches should be pursued.

    • Both methods have potential. At this point, it is not possible to say which will work. Given the number of people in need, the only ethical choice is to proceed energetically along both lines of research. The concern about stem cells giving rise to cancers is a real one, but it will remain a concern with any undifferentiated cell, whatever its source.
  • Hey! What if that was your embryo in the Stanford lab? Now you don't exist, and you can't argue your viewpoint.
  • What are the benefits of stem cell research? Fixing old people, that's what. Why do we want to fix old people? Seems like normally we'd be interested in making new people. So stem cell research is the first step in having a NEVER-ENDING population of PEOPLE WHO EXIST NOW, and simply RAID THEIR CHILDREN to LIVE FOREVER.

    This is pretty close to a troll, but no one else is suggesting this side. Look at social security. Most people don't seem to care how my generation is going to have to break their backs working for our old man. Do we want the old guard: Bush, Clinton, Blair, and Jiang Xemin squabbling forever on OUR STEM CELLS? HECK NO!!

    THAT'S THE TRUE DANGER!!!!

    Prove to me that Stem Cell research is better than having a whole lot more kids, one of whom might make stem cell research irrelevant.
  • The December issue of Wired (online Dec 13) talks about China's aggressive push into the stem cell industry while the West grapples with ethical roadblocks. An major approach is to create human embryoes using rabbit egg cells as the host. Its rather slow and costly to get human egg cells in sufficent quantities. Would these clones be called "habbits" then and have the urge to hop and mate mate every five minutes? :-)

    Outside of China, human embryo stem cells are grown intermixed with mouse cells. That is because the nourishment techniques were developed with mouse biotechnology and haven't fully migrated to pure human yet. These clones would have a taste for cheeses and squeak while talking.
  • Very inaccurate... (Score:5, Informative)

    by encino ( 537081 ) on Wednesday December 11, 2002 @10:53AM (#4862494)
    I'm a biochemist here at Stanford and Irv Weissman (the dude in charge of the project) is not talking about cloning at all. He's talking about taking existing stem cell lines, and swapping in new genetic material. It's a modification of existing cell lines that involves no new egg cells (or sperm cells), no fertilization, and no organismic development. Even the US Catholic League is okay with this. Besides, if it fell under the definition of human cloning, Stanford would lose federal funding, which it is certainly not willing to risk. I am very much against actual human cloning for a variety of ethical reasons, but this honestly isn't even close. Swapping interesting genes in and out of an existing cell line in order to study them is really not a big deal.
  • ...but let me know when they going to start making saber darts and rocket suits.
  • Think. (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by boatboy ( 549643 )
    Yesterday news also hit of bioethicist Dan Brock [brown.edu] advocating mandatory abortion [zwire.com] for disabled people such as blind and mentally ill.

    This is not a new concept [washington.edu], but is one that is growing in feasability and global support.

    What does this have to do with cloning and stem cell research? Well they all have the same amoral drive: creating a "better" human race through science without any moral guidelines. As we see on this board, many people ridicule those of us with moral presuppositions as "non-scientific", "ignorant", etc. Above, though, we see an extreme example of this.

    Fast-forward now 10 or 20 years. Science has guaranteed a "perfect" child to anybody who can afford one. A minority of rich people get smarter, stronger, better-looking, and richer, in contrast to those who still suffer with gross things like blindness and the worst- mental inferiority. It wasn't enough to genetically engineer perfect children. The question now is "Why hold on to that last moral presupposition that we shouldn't kill scientifically inferior people?" You may think me an extremist, but it's happened before. [ushmm.org]

    That is the question that should be answered today. If you truely believe in removing morals from science, be logically consistent with it: advocate a super-human race and the death of all inferior people. If you believe in moral presuppositions, though, realize what unchecked research in cloning, embryionic stem cells, and science in general will lead to [amazon.com]. Either way, the question is: what criteria do you use to value human life? You may have about a year to decide [thescotsman.co.uk].

    There are alternatives, such as adult stem cells [21stcentur...cetech.com], which have potential as well and sidestep ethical concerns.
  • Oh, how our poor fundimentalist friends (primarily Christian here in the US) must wish that a mob of screaming Talib could just fall from the sky and take over that satanic 'university'. Now that woudl be doing God's will! And then they could move on to eradicating the teaching of that silly 'theory' of evolution.

    (This is sarcastic, for those with sarcasm sensory imparement)

  • Why is Reproductive cloning bad? I have yet to hear a coherent argument against it. What will the existence of a clone do? Cause the breakdown of time and space. The fact is a clone would be no different than a twin, which by the way are certainly considered separate legal entities, no issue there.
  • So, instead of doing the ethical thing and developing a nonlethal technique for harvesting embryonic stem cells -a move which would quell all current opposition to research- they decide to create entirely new human beings, simply for the purposes of killing them in order to get their stem cells.

    Whatever happened to "First, do no harm"?
  • Stem cells are available from far more sources than aborted fetuses. Like umbilical cords for instance. Nothing wrong with taking a few samples that way.

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