I just read an article that is a clear call for Germany to get in on the human cloning game. And as so often happens in this issue, it is filled with scientific inaccuracies — whether by intent or ignorance, I don’t know.
First, the article in Deutche Welle, claims that the recent human cloning did not involved embryos — when we all know that SCNT cloning MAKES EMBRYOS! From the DW story:
Scientists, for the first time, have cloned embryonic stem cells using reprogrammed adult skin cells, without using human embryos . . . The process used by Mitalipov is an important step in research because it does not require killing a human embryo — that is, a potential human being — to create transformative stem cells.
Aaaugh! Also, an embryo is a human being, albeit at its most nascent stage.
The Cell paper announcing the cloning breakthrough told a different story:
Activation of embryonic genes and transcription from the transplanted somatic cell nucleus are required for development of SCNT embryos beyond the eight-cell stage . . . Therefore, these results are consistent with the premise that our modified SCNT protocol supports reprogramming of human somatic cells to the embryonic state.
So, in a science journal, it’s an embryo, but in the popular media, it’s not? That’s mendacious.
Human cloning can’t be done legally in Germany:
In Germany, this procedure is illegal. Human egg cells cannot be donated for any purpose. “The technique needed to get egg cells is a significant health hazard for women with substantial side effects,” says Bert Heinrichs, director of science at the German Reference Center for Ethics in the Life Sciences (DRZE) . . . Cloning is banned in Germany because theoretically a fertilized egg cell — the beginning of an embryo — could develop into a human being. Ethically, this is the classic moral conflict between the search for cures and treatments for human ailments and the right to life, explains DRZE director Dieter Sturma.
Hopefully, this was a bad translation. Cloned embryos are not fertilized. They are created asexually through the SCNT process — as Dolly was. Also, note the implication that CURES! are just around the corner.
The article warns that Germany better on the human cloning bandwagon!
But one thing is certain: research in the coming years will not be happening in Germany due to the country’s Embryo Protection Act. However, if cloning science progresses faster than expected in laboratories around the world, a new round of ethical problems could emerge. “Of course, there will be stem cell tourism. When methods are not offered in Germany, people, who are desperate, will look elsewhere,” warned Sturma.
The great cloning debate is about to begin. Just as with the embryonic stem cell debate, there will be hype and obfuscation by the pro-cloning side. That’s disrespectful of democratic processes.
This is not a science debate, it is an ethics debate. Good ethical analysis requires accurate facts. That seems to be precisely what many among “the scientists” intend to deny the public.