by Aaron Earls
For the first time, scientists have cloned cells from two adults to create human embryos.
This follows on the heels of similar research last year, which created cloned embryos from infant and fetal cells.
Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission says Christians should oppose this latest step, like all other forms of human cloning, “as unethical and unnecessary.”
The research, published last week in the online journal Cell Stem Cell, records the process by which the scientists were able to create the cloned embryos to be harvested for stem cells. This is so-called “therapeutic” cloning, which the scientists involved wanted to distinguish from reproductive cloning—used to produce a cloned human child.
The goal is to grow the embryonic stem cells in the lab and then coax them to develop into other forms of specialized cells that could theoretically be used to treat illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease.
However, if the cloned embryo were implanted into a uterus, it could develop like any other embryo. This is how the famed Dolly the sheep was created in 1996.
“Without regulations in place, such embryos could also be used for human reproductive cloning, although this would be unsafe and grossly unethical,” Dr. Robert Lanza, a co-author of the new study, told Reuters.
But Carter, who wrote ERLC’s summary on the issue of embryonic stem cell research, says such semantic distinction between the two types of cloning is misleading.
“All cloning produces a human embryo and is therefore reproductive in nature,” he says. “The more accurate phrasing is ‘cloning-to-produce-children’ and ‘cloning-for-research’ to make a distinction between cloning that results in the creation of an embryo for subsequent destruction and one that is created in order to continue the normal process of human development.”
After the research last year that created human embryos to be used in research from younger cells, the ERLC published an article, “Human cloning has begun, but now it must become illegal,” in which Dave Sterrett argues we should “expand adult stem research and efforts, but pass legislation that makes the cloning of human embryos for stem cells illegal.”
During last year’s public debate, Dr. Micheline M. Matthews-Roth, professor at Harvard Medical School, told CNN, that this boils down to “killing a growing human to cure somebody else. That’s the basic line. That’s no philosophy, that’s science. If you kill a growing human, you take that blastocyst, you break it open, you’re killing a growing human.”
For Carter that is the primary moral objection to cloning-for-research—”it creates human life solely for the purpose of destroying it; using a human embryo merely as a means to an end (e.g., ‘spare parts’).”
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.