By Emma Ross
AP Medical Writer

7:04 AM PDT, June 20, 2005

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Scientists have cloned human embryos for the first time using unripe eggs matured in a dish — a technique that may help cloning become a viable option for growing patients’ own replacement tissue to treat diseases.

The experiment, outlined Monday at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, brings the Belgians to the forefront of human cloning aimed at producing stem cells that would be a genetic match for injured or sick patients.

South Korean scientists last year were the first to clone a human embryo. Last month, the same group achieved another major advance, creating cloned embryos from nine patients and extracting stem cells from them.

Until now, scientists investigating human cloning for medical purposes have been limited to using mature eggs. Some experts have said cloning may not become a practical approach for creating tailor-made stem cells because it requires huge numbers of eggs. There aren’t enough mature eggs left over from infertility treatments to meet that need, which means scores of women would have to be willing to donate them.

However, up to 15 percent of eggs retrieved from women for infertility treatment are unripe and not used. If those can be used for cloning, the egg supply problem may be significantly eased, said Josiane Van der Elst, who conducted the research at Ghent University in Belgium.


Author Profile

Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, CBC Founder
Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.