July 5, 2022

SCIENTISTS’ CONFIDENCE IN THERAPEUTIC CLONING UNSHAKEN

 Despite the debacle in Korea, stem cell scientists and supportive bioethicists and journalists are confident that therapeutic cloning will succeed. At least three research groups in the US and UK are planning to make their own human embryonic stem cell lines from cloned embryos even though the road ahead will be unexpectedly more difficult now that Hwang’s research has been discredited. The co- director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Douglas Melton, commented: "This sad news from Korea in no way weakens our belief in all the demonstrably valid experiments indicating that stem cell science holds the promise of eventually providing the basis of treatments and cures for numerous presently intractable chronic diseases… It simply means that we still need to take important steps we thought had already been taken."

Laurie Zoloth, a prominent bioethicist from Northwestern University, said that the incident was a reminder that a high standard of truthfulness in science is always needed, but that the core idea of therapeutic cloning was "not a fantasy… not a fraud".

And Professor Ian Wilmut, the Scottish scientist who made cloning a reality by creating Dolly the sheep, is neither wringing his hands nor sitting on them while his colleagues fret about the future of stem cell science. He has called for a relaxation of ethical safeguards so that he can test embryonic stem cells on terminally ill patients. Normally scientists would be required to do animal trials of potential therapies first, especially since the use of embryonic stem cells is clearly hazardous at the moment. But Professor Wilmut says the need is too urgent. "If we wait until things are totally tested and analysed in animals, it will deny some people that treatment," he told the Scotsman newspaper. He knows of patients who are "only too keen" to participate in trials.