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First human embryo cloned

The Story


Science fiction has just become science fact: the first human being has been cloned. Not a whole human, but an embryo that divided to just six cells and then died. But the experiment by a private Boston laboratory called Advanced Cell Technology has caused an ethical uproar. Robert Lanza, a proponent of stem cell technology, says in this report that the research could ultimately cure over 100 human diseases. Others say he has paved the way for creating human clones.

Medium: Radio
Program: This Morning
Broadcast Date: Nov. 27, 2001
Guest(s): Laurie Andrews, Robert Lanza
Host: Shelagh Rogers
Reporter: Bob Carty
Duration: 18:50

Did You know?


• Stem cells are cells that have not yet specialized. They can become any kind of cell (skin, bone, nerve, organ etc). In the future, stem cells may be used to mend damaged hearts, create pancreatic cells to treat diabetes, nerve tissue to treat Parkinson's or spinal cord injuries, or cartilage to treat arthritis.
• To prevent rejection by the recipient's body, stem cells can be cloned so that they have the same DNA as the recipient.

• In 2001 the best source of stem cells was from human embryos, such as aborted fetuses or embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. The embryos are generally destroyed in the process of harvesting the stem cells.
• Embryonic stem cell research is contentious because some people see it as creating a human life only to destroy it.
• Stem cells also exist in less controversial sources like umbilical cords, adult brains, bone marrow and even baby teeth.

• Advanced Cell Technology, located near Boston, Mass., is a company that specializes in "therapeutic" nuclear transfer technology. It is researching the use of human embryos to harvest stem cells that could be used to treat diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Other projects include the creation of transgenic cattle that can produce human proteins, and research in cell and organ transplantation. They do not work on reproductive cloning, though critics say the scientific underpinnings are the same.

• U.S. President George W. Bush condemned ACT's announcement and used the occasion to push for a ban on cloning. Bush called growing and destroying human embryos for the sake of research "bad public policy" and "morally wrong in my opinion." He restricted federal financing for stem cell research; the house passed a ban on human cloning.
• Scientists are also working on a process of extracting stem cells without destroying the embryo, providing an ongoing source.

• In Canada there is no law regarding the use of human embryonic tissue in research. In March 2001 the Canadian Institutes of Health Research suggested guidelines for stem cell research that regulated the use of leftover embryos, and in March 2002 it released guidelines governing public funding of stem cell research. These guidelines have no legal standing, nor do they affect private funding.

• Among the CIHR guidelines:
- Only embryos left over from in vitro attempts can be used; embryos cannot be created for research
- Donors must give consent, and no commercial transactions or financial incentives are allowed
- Cloning human embryos is not allowed
- Embryos must not be allowed to grow longer than 14 days


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