Monkey Cloning Raises Troubling Questions Unconnected to the Status of Embryos
Legislation is needed to prohibit reproductive cloning and reduce risks to women who provide eggs
Oakland, CA The apparent monkey cloning success at the Oregon National
Primate Research Center gives new urgency to important social and safety issues
raised by cloning-based stem cell research using human tissues, said the Center
for Genetics and Society, a public interest organization.
CGS and other advocates for responsible oversight of human biotechnologies
focus on three concerns about research cloning (also known as somatic cell
nuclear transfer): the health risks to women of extracting the hundreds of eggs
that cloning research requires; the need for effective and enforceable oversight
to prevent unauthorized reproductive cloning efforts; and the potential for
exacerbating health disparities.
The new cloning developments highlight the need for legislation at the
federal level to reduce the risks to women who provide eggs for research and to
prohibit reproductive cloning. They also underscore the importance of avoiding
exaggerated claims about the likelihood or imminence of cloning-based medical
treatments or cures.
The California law on eggs for research that was passed last year the
first of its kind in the U.S. is a good place to start, said Marcy Darnovsky,
CGS Associate Executive Director. The law, SB 1260, was authored by Senator
Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), a champion of women's health and an early
supporter of stem cell research in California. The Center for Genetics and
Society, along with Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the
Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, worked closely with the former
Senator's office on the landmark bill.
Concerns about the health risks of egg extraction focus on the drugs used to
"shut down" women's ovaries and those used to "hyperstimulate" the ovaries to
produce multiple eggs. Both are associated with serious adverse reactions, in
some cases life-threatening. Deaths have been reported. The Oregon researchers
used more than 300 monkey eggs to produce one viable stem cell line. In more
than a decade of cloning research, the efficiency has not improved.
Scores of countries and about a dozen U.S. states have adopted prohibitions
on reproductive cloning. But we still don't have laws against reproductive
cloning either nationally or in the majority of U.S. states, pointed out CGS
policy analyst Jesse Reynolds.
Commenting on the prospect of "individually tailored" treatments derived from
cloning-based stem cell lines, Darnovsky said, The personal-repair-kit approach
to stem cell research is far-fetched. To the extent that researchers and their
advocates still claim that cloning techniques will lead to personalized stem
cell treatments, they should recognize that even if these are someday
technically possible they would be enormously expensive, and thus would likely
worsen our already shameful health disparities. We need to prioritize stem cell
research mostly likely to produce treatments that can be made widely