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11/15/2007

Monkey cloning follow up

photo of the monkey that donated the skin cells for cloningSemos, the monkey whose skin cells were used to create the cloned embryos

A lot of details have shaken out since The Independent dropped the news that a team in Oregon had successfully created cloned monkey embryos:

+ The research was scheduled to be published in Nature later this month. But with the news circulating all over the web, Nature has posted the paper online.

+ Trying to avoid another Hwang situation, the researchers sent their stem cells out for independent confirmation that they were, in fact, cloned. (Nature)

+ Shoukhrat Mitalipov, the research team’s leader, told the New York Times that he is sure their technique will work for human cells.

+ The success rate at creating cloned embryos and extracting stem cells from those clones is still very low. Of the Oregon team’s 304 attempts at creating a monkey clone, 213 resulted in embryos and just 35 of those became blastocysts and only two of those yielded stem cells. (WP)

+ The Oregon team’s effort toward reproductive monkey cloning seems to have been overstated in the original report from The Independent. According to Mitalipov, the team’s leader, 77 embryos had been implanted in a dozen surrogates — no embryo made it day 25. (Nature)

+ Treatments for humans based on this technology are still a long way off, Stanford’s Irving Weissman told NPR. The more immediate promise is the use of cloned cells for modeling and studying disease.

+ ACT’s Robert Lanza told Nature that repeating this feat in humans will be difficult because of a lack of donated eggs. He says rules against compensating donors are holding things back.

+ Religious groups have responded to the news with a bit of optimism for better treatment and a lot of wariness about human reproductive cloning. “This breakthrough is a double-edged sword,” said the executive director of a Catholic think tank to the Washington Post. And the director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center told the New York Times, “At this point, it becomes essential to ask a question as a society: Are there ever going to be circumstances where it is morally justifiable to clone human beings?”

Earlier on blog.bioethics.net:
+ Art Caplan at MSNBC: Monkey cloning a reason to pause, not panic

photo from the supplementary materials to the paper by Byrne, J. A. et al.

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