just can't get this cloning business off my mind. Radiohead
have made an entire CD on the theme. It's rather nice. It is
a hot theme.
what I understand, the human cloning dilemma is the most sensational
but not the most recent and not even the most disturbing one
from the ethical point of view. Maybe a human being will never
be cloned but therapeutical cloning is already being studied
in a very concrete way. This type of cloning has got to do with
those strange things called "staminal cells".
have kept an article in which there is an accurate explanation
of what staminal cells really are. What seems to be the problem
is this: the most promising development of scientific research
is the creation of embryos by cloning the somatic cell of a
patient with the aim of extracting the staminal cells at any
time in the future, in order to cure a disease of that patient.
reminds me of a novel I have read, Spares, by Marshall Smith.
It is a rather terrifying science-fiction story in which rich
people have themselves cloned and keep the clones amassed behind
bars like wild beasts only to take their organs and replace
a bad liver or a kidney or any other rotten organ. The clones
are used as a stock of spare parts; how scary is that?
is fiction, of course, and I hope badly the situation never
comes that far but the thing with the staminal cells works in
a shockingly similar way. The staminal cells never actually
evolve to form a human being, not even a foetus, because the
intervention is performed on the embryo at a very early stage.
Yet, these cells, too, have the function of "spare cells".
this out: the staminal cells are in fact cells that, on
one hand, have a capacity for a long sequence of reproduction
without differentiation, that is, without becoming specialized
cells (of the nervous, muscular, blood or other systems) but
on the other hand, they evolve to specialized cell lines (nerve-cell,
muscle-cell, etc.) under certain conditions.
are the cells that can be used to treat particular diseases
arising from genetic malformations because these cells are produced
artificially and their genetic code can therefore be reprogrammed.
When introduced into the organism, they can replace the sick
says here, for example, that one of the diseases that could
be cured in this way is lateral amyotrophic sclerosis, which
damages only those neurons controlling movement and leads to
death in 3 to 5 years from its onset. There are more than 350,000
persons in the world suffering from this disease and approximately
100,000 die of it every year. It also seems to be the way to
cure other diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
throw some more light on the subject: there are adult staminal
cells, that are found in bone marrow, brain and blood and have
been known to scientists for about three decades, then there
are the embryonic staminal cells, that have only been discovered
more recently and are found in embryos. The experiments carried
out on embryonic stem cells are more recent and it is not yet
sure how these cells function, but many scientists are eager
to test their usefulness.
is where the problem lies:
in order to produce these cells, it would be necessary either
to produce a human embryo with one of the cloning techniques
available today or to use extra unneeded embryos derived from
artificial insemination. This embryo would have to grow to the
stage of a blastocyst (that means from around 14 to 18 days
of life) and finally, the staminal cells could be isolated from
the internal cellular mass. This last intervention would, of
course, destroy the embryo.
those who claim that the embryo must be regarded as a human
being from the moment when the spermatozoon end the ovule meet
or when the nucleus of another cell replaces the egg's nucleus,
are usually opposed to any research on embryonic staminal cells
and thereby to any kind of cloning for therapeutic reasons.
These people believe there is essentially no difference between
therapeutic and reproductive cloning because both result in
creating a living being.
the contrary, therapeutic cloning is even more atrocious because
it implies destruction of the embryo.
people maintain that at least up to the 18th day of life the
embryo is not a human being because not even its nervous system
is developed at that time. These persons therefore think that
no harm is done by carrying on research on embryonic stem cells
since this research could in future help to find cures for serious
diseases and is thus in the general interest of humanity. What's
more, a country that bans such research is bound to be left
behind in scientific and even humane progress.
are two different concepts of life, society and freedom at stake
here. So the question whether it is right or not to allow therapeutic
cloning and research on embryonic staminal cells will have to
be answered by each one of us according to personal moral and
social beliefs, as usual.
cloning yes or no?
DemoKino - Virtual Biopolitical Parliament - Therapeutic Cloning.