Comments: "Costly Cloning Isn't a Cure-All"
or "The Great Human Embryonic Stem Cell Fairy Tale Exposed"

Irving News Comments
Copyright December 1, 2004
Reproduced with Permission

So "The Great Human Embryonic Stem Cell Fairy Tale" is beginning to unravel. It is going to be interesting to watch. Seems that the unprecedented international rush and hard press to get public acceptance and funding of "human embryonic stem cell research" is not going to make countries and governors of states and provinces fabulously rich after all. Rather, it is going to make a few private biomedical researchers and drug company CEO's mega-rich (like, billions). It is not really about "stem cell research" to produce miracle cures for sick patients - because they will never get beyond the rejection reactions induced even with "stem cells" from embryos cloned from a particular patient -- but about human cloning in order to "study" the processes of diseases. When will these "patient advocacy" groups ever learn?

But what is still not exposed is that DISABLED HUMAN BEINGS - living human embryos, human organisms (NOT just "cells" or "balls of cells") -- must be purposefully produced en masse by the vats-full by cloning sick patients' body cells in order to "study" these diseases - for "future therapies" that won't work either for the same reasons. This requires the mass production of disabled humans to be destroyed for the "good" of other human beings. Yet I hear no ringing condemnations from the disabled communities. But then, who should complain when preeminent "ethicists" don't see anything wrong with it either - or, for that matter, feminists, who only fear "reproductive" cloning so much that they are oblivious that it is already going on in ART but called something else? When will they ever learn?

And is there nothing wrong with what the article refers to as "pseudo-cloning" (parthenogenesis), or with "hemi-cloning" (pronuclei transfer used already in some IVF "treatments")? Are these "cloning", or not? Should we be concerned, or not? What about the use of artificial genes, chromosomes, pronuclei, nuclei, sperm and oocytes to produced new "reconstructed" living human beings -- for both research and reproduction? Scientific studies using these techniques now flood the scientific literature. Such techniques are not technically "cloning", but does that mean that it is still OK?

This residual confusion is an indication that many still do not understand that the scientific issue is human genetic engineering - a precursor of social engineering. That is, human cloning, using all types of cloning techniques, is just one among many human genetic engineering techniques. Yet none of the passed or proposed laws and regulations on stem cell research or cloning here or elsewhere use or define the term "human genetic engineering". And -- you've got it -- if it isn't specifically articulated in a bill or regulation, then legally it is not prohibited. The point is that regardless of the definitions proposed, regardless of the techniques used, any method or process that produces new living human beings for research fodder is unethical and should be clearly and specifically prohibited by law. So The Great Fairy Tale still continues, using different disguises.

[For further detailed scientific unmasking of these Fairy Tales, see Irving: "What Human Embryo? Funniest Mental Gymnastics from Medicine and Research" (Oct. 14, 2004), in press, and "Analysis: Stearns' Congressional Human Cloning Fairy Tale 'Ban'; New Age and Transhumanist Legislation for ‘Converging Technologies'?" (Sept. 8, 2004), at:],1286,65883,00.html?tw=wn_story_mailer
Dec. 1, 2004

Costly Cloning Isn't a Cure-All

Of the small number of Americans who have any idea what therapeutic cloning is, the majority likely believes it essential for stem-cell therapies to succeed. That is not necessarily true.

Therapeutic cloning, also known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, will not be the route to successful stem-cell therapies, many scientists say. In fact, if therapeutic cloning were vital, it would make stem-cell therapies prohibitively expensive.

That doesn't mean therapeutic cloning is altogether useless. Researchers believe they can learn a great deal about disease and perhaps find cures by studying stem cells derived from the clones of patients with diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other ailments. But those cells will likely be a conduit to therapies, not therapies themselves, at least not until scientists develop much more efficient therapeutic cloning methods.

"The value of nuclear transfer is not for cell therapy, it's to do molecular research to figure out how genetic disease is manifest," said Tom Okarma, CEO of Geron, a biotech company in Menlo Park, California, that has studied stem cells since 1995. "When you inject nuclear transfer, (stem-cell therapy) becomes a dead end."

That's especially worrisome from the standpoint of a company trying to please its stockholders. Back when Geron began stem-cell research, scientists theorized that patients' immune systems would reject stem-cell therapies, just like an organ transplant. The solution, in theory, would be to create clones of patients from which researchers could extract genetically identical stem cells that would be accepted as the patients' own cells.

But that would mean a custom-made clone for every patient. Not only would that be exorbitant for already cash-strapped hospitals (especially when you consider treatments would likely cost up to $200,000), but it could also create a big demand for donor eggs. That prospect led to protest from feminist organizations, such as the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, which worried that underprivileged women would bear the brunt of the demand.

But now, most stem-cell researchers have given up on the idea of custom-made clones.

"Not only would it be expensive, but logistically it could be impossible because you will have to have every single hospital in the world set up to do therapeutic cloning and prepared to do the different protocols," said Jose Cibelli, a cloning researcher at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

While immune rejection is a big hurdle for stem-cell therapies, excluding therapeutic cloning as the solution is a bit of a weight off researchers' shoulders. It means therapeutic cloning bans, which have been in the works in the United States and the United Nations for years but are unlikely to pass in their present forms, might not throw a wrench in California's stem-cell initiative (or other states' plans), at least when it comes to deriving stem-cell therapies.

Researchers hope, nevertheless, that some of the $3 billion awarded to embryonic stem-cell research by California's Proposition 71 will go toward cloning studies that could act as drug-development tools and eventually lead to new pharmaceuticals.

While researchers aren't certain the cloning-for-research approach will point to drugs, Rudolf Jaenisch, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has cloned mice with severe combined immunodeficiency, then derived stem cells to watch the disease develop, setting a precedent for further studies.

"Producing such lines would make available to the biomedical research community a fantastic set of tools for studying and understanding how each correlated gene plays a role in disease development, a prelude to testing therapies," said Irv Weissman, a developmental professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

If the federal government did pass a therapeutic cloning ban, it could overrule states' efforts, depending on the language of the legislation, said R. Alta Charo, a bioethics and law professor at the University of Wisconsin law and medical schools. But states would likely challenge the law in federal court, she added.

A way around immune rejection remains an enigma for stem-cell scientists. Researchers like Weissman and Okarma believe perhaps scientists will one day make therapeutic cloning practical by, for example, figuring out a way to develop human eggs from stem cells. Others are working on different solutions altogether.

Advanced Cell Technology scientists are focusing on a pseudo-cloning technique called parthenogenesis, which involves creating an embryo using only eggs. Clones produced using parthenogenesis would be less likely to cause immune rejection, said Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology, who has spent his 25-year career dealing with transplantation-induced immune rejection. His company published research in Science in February 2002 showing it could achieve parthenogenesis in monkeys.

"With a few dozen or a few hundred stem-cell lines we could create a bank that would match most of the U.S. population," Lanza said.

Okarma of Geron suggested worrying about immune rejection might be moot, because the immune activity caused by embryonic stem cells may be insignificant, much like a mother does not reject an embryo that implants in her uterus. But other researchers say the data on this theory is conflicting, and the outcome might depend on how many cells are implanted.

Another approach could be to build up tolerance in a patient by slowly introducing small amounts of cells so the patient does not reject them, Okarma said.

Because scientists don't know which, if any, methods will work, they hope they will be free to explore all of them. "I think there is hope out there," Lanza said. "But the problem is we've been fooled in the past over and over with promising technologies."

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