Logo of National Women's Health Network

May / June 2006

"Which comes first-the egg or the cure?" asks an advertisement enticing young women to provide their eggs for stem cell research. The ad lists several diseases and asserts that "It could happen to you or your loved one", and encourages the reader to: "Let your eggs be part of the cure." These slogans mark the re-entry of U.S. scientists into what many see as a global stem cell race. The downfall of disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk, who fabricated data to support his claim that he harvested stem cells from a cloned human embryo, has prompted scientists to scramble to truly be "the first."

The hype around stem cell research and the resulting media attention have raised public hopes that research will soon lead to cures for chronic diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's. These hopes overshadow serious risks associated with one approach to stem cell research that has been receiving increased attention from scientists. This technique, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) or "research cloning", raises serious concerns because it requires a huge number of...