August 13, 2004

Singer & Daar: We should clone this UK policy

Peter Singer and Abdallah Daar from Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics had and important article published in the Globe and Mail today. Called We Should Clone this U.K. Policy, the two bioethicists defend therapeutic cloning and stand critical of Canadian policies:
Yesterday, scientists in the United Kingdom announced that they'd been granted permission by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority to create stem cells by therapeutic cloning. Now the U.K. is positioned to lead the world in translating the potential benefits of stem-cell research into patients. Canada should follow its lead and permit therapeutic cloning under strict regulation.

In therapeutic cloning, scientists take a human egg from a healthy donor, and remove its nucleus. They then take a cell -- a skin cell, for example -- from a patient, and remove its nucleus. They put the nucleus of the patient's cell into the egg whose nucleus has been removed. The resulting cell then divides for about a week until it is a small clump of embryonic cells, from which stem cells are removed.

These stem cells are encouraged to become the type of cells needed (say, insulin cells) and then introduced into the patient (with, for example, diabetes). The key is that the DNA, the genetic material in those embryonic stem cells, comes from the patient, whose immune system won't reject the stem cells.

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