Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Human Cloners Whining About Wanting to Buy Eggs Again


"The scientists" are whining--are these people never satisfied?--again! This time it is about their inability to buy human eggs, a "problem" they complain is impeding human cloning.

A story in the San Diego Union Tribune, carries the scientists' complaint. (Kudos to the reporter, Terri Somers, for writing a generally accurate and complete report about the science and risks to women involved in egg extraction, rather than just swallowing whole the PR pitched to her as many of her press colleagues on the biotech beat so often do.) From the story:
State laws that are aimed at putting California at the global forefront of stem cell science are stymieing a promising avenue of research by creating a shortage of human eggs.

The state's $3 billion taxpayer initiative to fund stem cell research prohibits paying women to be egg donors. But to work on therapeutic cloning, an area of research that might make patient-specific therapies possible, scientists need human eggs. "This is what I call the great stem cell debacle, and it's ridiculous," said Dr. Samuel Wood, who founded Stemagen, a San Diego biotechnology company that is trying to create human embryonic stem cells through therapeutic cloning. "The people of California passed Proposition 71 to fund billions of dollars worth of stem cell research including (therapeutic cloning) and then the legislators and leaders of the stem cell institute put guidelines in place that greatly hamper, or virtually eliminate, the possibility of this being successful."
An Oregon scientist also gets in on the whining:
It's clear that without having access to resources, in this case human oocytes [eggs], we cannot move forward," said Shoukrat Mitalipov, a University of Oregon scientist considered a leader in therapeutic cloning. Mitalipov led the only team known to have successfully conducted therapeutic cloning using monkey cells. He is a member of a San Diego-based team whose grant application proposing to translate his work into human cells was rejected
(Query: If an Oregon scientist receives CIRM money, does that not violate Proposition 71's requirement that the funded work be exclusively from California concerns? Might be worth a lawsuit if it does.)

But I digress: What's ridiculous is scientists expecting women to line up and risk their health, fecundity, and even their lives in order for "the scientists" to potentially gain world fame and huge dollars from their biotech companies from human cloning.

The story claims that there are no statistics on the side effects. But that isn't true. About 5% of women who go through the egg extraction process--which is accurately depicted in the piece--suffer side effects that have included in the last few years, death, loss of fertility, paralysis, infection, blood clots, and other serious problems. Hands Off Our Ovaries, an alliance between pro life and pro choice feminists to prevent scientists from being able to buy eggs has many details.

The story also claims that the going rate for egg extraction will be about $3000. That's not much for such a risk, and given the thousands and thousands of eggs that would be needed to perfect human SCNT--if it can be done at all--expect the law of supply and demand to kick in and the price to shoot up if the market ever materialized.

But generally in these matters "the scientists" get what they want. Egg selling is apparently going to be reconsidered by the CIRM:

The state stem cell institute remains committed to therapeutic cloning, said chief scientist Marie Csete. The institute's standards committee will meet in February to discuss egg payments, Csete said.

Wood plans to attend. He wants to talk about using excess eggs obtained for fertilization. Another option, Wood said, would be to use grants to reimburse fertility doctors who would reduce their rates to women donating eggs for research. In the United Kingdom, regulators overcame the egg shortage by allowing women to receive in vitro fertilization for half the normal price if they agreed to give half of their eggs to research.

No they didn't "overcome" the egg shortage with these pittances. Indeed, the lack of human egg availability in the UK is precisely why the government authorized scientists there to use cow eggs now in human SCNT, raising the prospect of human/cow hybrids.

Perhaps instead of whining about not being able to get their hands on enough eggs to do cloning research, these scientists should switch their emphases to more ethical and safer alternatives.


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