April 24, 2024

South Australian parliament to study new stem cell technique

Could be first in world to contend with new wrinkle in debate

The state of South Australia could
become the first jurisdiction in the world to deal with the new
alternative to therapeutic cloning. Although most Australian states
quickly passed legislation copying a 2007 Federal law which
authorised the creation of cloned embryos, South Australia lagged
behind. In the interval came the stunning news that Shinya Yamanaka,
of Kyoto University, had created pluripotent cells from ordinary skin
cells. Now legislators will have decide whether they will decline to
legalise a superseded and ethically contentious technology or press
ahead to keep scientists’ options open.

In an article in The Australian,
Dr Jack Martin, one of the country’s leading medical
scientists, argues forcefully against cloning. “There is no
valid reason for any government to consider approval of therapeutic
cloning that requires nuclear transfer into human eggs,” he
says. “Indeed, it would be prudent to have the 2007 federal
legislation taken off the books.”

His confidence in the potential of
the reprogrammed cells is supported by a leading stem cell scientist.
Writing in Nature, Martin Pera, formerly of Monash University in
Melbourne, and now at UCLA, says that “The results raised the
hope that, one day, iPS cells might fulfil much of the promise of
human embryonic stem cells in research and medicine… So the year
2008 promises to be very exciting for researches interested in
pluripotent stem-cell biology.” ~ Nature, Jan 10; Australian,
Jan 10; South Australian government