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About Research Cloning

Some scientists are working with human tissues on a technique known as research cloning (also called somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT) in an effort to produce genetically specific embryonic stem cells.

SCNT involves putting the nucleus of a body cell into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. The resulting clonal embryo is induced to begin dividing with chemicals or electricity. When it has developed to about 100 cells, stem cells are harvested from it.

The Basic Science

Frequently Asked Questions

Arguments Pro & Con

Producing human stem cell lines using research cloning has been difficult, although clonal embryos have been successfully derived. In early 2006, claims by Hwang Woo Suk to have cloned human embryos and derived stem cell lines from them were revealed to be fraudulent. In 2013, a team at Oregon State did report success, and in 2014 two other teams duplicated the result.

Research cloning raises concerns: risks to women whom scientists are asking to provide the necessary eggs; exaggerated and probably unrealistic claims of "personalized" therapies; and, because the same technique would be the first step in reproductive cloning, the need for effective oversight to prevent efforts to produce cloned humans. If the many technical obstacles to such treatments were ever overcome, they would likely be enormously expensive, and thus inaccessible to most people.

In recent years, the slow progress in research cloning and increased success with creating genetically specific stem cells via reprogramming methods have led many scientists to abandon the former field. A 2014 comparison of the results, conducted by a cloning specialist, suggested that stem cells produced by cloning have no advantage over those produced by reprogramming.

Disgraced Scientist Clones Dogs, and Critics Question His Intentby Rob SteinNPRSeptember 30th, 2015Sooam Biotech, founded by scientific pariah Hwang Woo Suk, has cloned over 600 dogs for $100,000 each. The process works only one-third of the time and is risky.
A $6 Billion Question: Affordability of California's Stem Cell Therapiesby David JensenCalifornia Stem Cell ReportSeptember 23rd, 2015The California stem cell agency will cost taxpayers $6 billion by 2020. But the agency isn't discussing what any therapies are likely to cost, or whether it should focus on affordable treatments.
E.U. parliament votes to ban cloning of farm animalsby Gretchen VogelScienceSeptember 8th, 2015The ban does not cover cloning for research purposes, nor does it prevent efforts to clone endangered species.
State agency forming big stem-cell bank to help find curesby Kevin SchultzSan Francisco ChronicleSeptember 1st, 2015Thousands of cell lines created induced pluripotent stem cells will be made available to researchers.
Cloning a Punishable OffenseArab News [Saudi Arabia]April 13th, 2015Experiments or research in human cloning is an offense punishable by law and any violation means a fine and six months in jail.
The Price Of Hype: The Public Now Has Unrealistic Timelines For Scienceby Hank CampbellScience 2.0March 11th, 2015Today, people think stem cell therapies already exist. It's not science journalists and bloggers framing this for political gain. The culprits are scientists playing up their research.
Mitochondrial Mission Creep and the Cloning Connection by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesFebruary 14th, 2015Shoukhrat Mitalipov wants to use nuclear genome transfer for age-related infertility. He has joined forces with the disgraced stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk.
Why Worry About Genetically Modified Babies?by Marcy Darnovsky and Jessica CussinsGeneWatchNovember 24th, 2014The terms "genetically modified babies" and "designer babies" are attention-getters. But beyond the catchy sound bites, what do they really mean - and are they something we need to worry about?
Are All Pluripotent Stem Cells Equal?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 12th, 2014A new paper by long-term advocates of research cloning implies that it has no advantage over reprogramming cells.
Scientists Find That SCNT Derived Cells and IPS Cells are SimilarNew York Stem Cell FoundationNovember 6th, 2014Cells derived from these two methods resulted in cells with highly similar gene expression and DNA methylation patterns and similar amounts of DNA mutations.
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