The Corner

RE: Cloning

It’s worth noting that this particular cloning breakthrough repeats and seems not to surpass work done in Britain in 2005. Beginning with 29 eggs, they produced five cloned embryos, of which one survived to the blastocyst (5-6 day) stage at which embryonic stem cells are usually derived, but they did not succeed in deriving stem cells from it. In the story Ramesh links, Harvard stem cell scientist Doug Melton is quoted saying: “I found it difficult to determine what was substantially new” in this study. That seems about right. More than anything, this shows it remains very difficult to create human embryos by cloning; but it does also show that despite advances in ethically uncontroversial ways of producing pluripotent cells, and despite the view of some prominent cloning experts that those advances should lead researchers to abandon cloning, some people are still trying.

The combination of that ethical somatic cell reprogramming technique and success last year with primate cloning (which would allow scientists to get quite far in the study of the character of cloned embryos without the use of human embryos) should lead to two policy outcomes: aggressive support for the ethical alternatives, and a legal prohibition on all human cloning. Seems like something that a certain co-sponsor of the cloning ban who needs to shore up his conservative credentials (because of his views on stem cells among other issues) might think about raising.

Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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