While the research has yet to be published, a presentation by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon National Primate Research Center is starting to turn heads.
At a conference in Australia earlier this year, Mitalipov described his success at cloning monkey embryos and extracting stem cells from them. The success is seen as a milestone on the way to “doing the same thing in people.”
The controversy over cloning will increase as the prospect of cloning a human comes closer to reality.
The LiveScience article on the breakthrough describes the procedure:
In cloning to obtain stem cells, DNA from an adult animal is inserted into an unfertilized egg. The egg is grown into an early embryo, from which stem cells are extracted. These stem cells, and the tissue that develops from them, will be a genetic match to the source of the DNA.
Even if Mitalipov’s research was a success, the results are still far from translatable in humans. Nevertheless, the controversy over cloning will increase as the prospect of cloning a human (to produce stem cells or offspring, although Cibelli said, “we’re all opposed to that”) comes closer to reality.
The issues of cloning and stem cell research are complicated, both because of the moral and ethical decisions involved and because of the complex (and often misunderstood) science behind the procedures. For example, whereas the simple phrase “stem cells” almost immediately sparks controversy, it is specifically the harvesting of embryonic stem cells that is in question (not adult stem cells).
Mitalipov’s research will be released soon in the journal Nature according to the Oregon Health & Science University, which operates the center where Mitalipov works.
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