Once Dolly the sheep was manufactured, human cloning was always mostly a matter of developing the right technique.
In this case, cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man were used to generate two separate lines of stem cells. The process, known as nuclear transfer, involves taking the DNA from a donor and inserting it into an egg that has been stripped of its DNA.
The resulting hybrid is stimulated to fuse and start dividing; after a few days the “embryo” creates a lining of stem cells that are destined to develop into all of the cells and tissues in the human body.
It’s not a quote, embryo, unquote: It is an embryo-embryo, made asexually.
Human cloning will lead to the exploitation of women, since human eggs are an essential ingredient of each cloning attempt. And not just any eggs will do. they have to be quality eggs!
The findings confirm that the key factor in making nuclear transfer work with human cells is not the age of the donor cell, as some experts have argued, but the quality of the donor egg. “No matter how much you tweak the protocols or optimize them, it looks like the major player in efficiency is the individual egg quality,” says Mitalipov. He notes that all of his stem cell lines came from the same egg donor. The two cell lines described by Lanza’s group also came from one egg donor.
For the time being, a low supply of eggs will continue to impede the technology. But if they ever learn how to make “quality” eggs from stem cells or harvest and mature them from aborted female fetuses–yes, that is being experimented with–or such like, it will be Katy bar the door!
Women can die or be rendered infertile supplying eggs. And since mostly poor women will be tempted to be egg suppliers, it seems to me we should prevent paying for eggs in biotechnology just as laws currently prohibit buying kidneys.
Last year, California’s increasingly radical legislature tried to go in the other direction, passing a bill to allow eggs to be purchased for use in experiments–which I wrote about at some length. Governor Brown vetoed it. Now, it’s up for consideration again. Brown won’t be running for reelection this time. What will he do?
In any event, the time for making informed decisions about whether we want to go down this road can’t be put off any longer. Human cloning is the gateway to Brave New World. We either outlaw it now–as the United Nations overwhelmingly voted to do years ago, as “incompatible with human dignity”–or eventually see a day in which cloned fetuses are farmed in artificial wombs for use in experimentation, reproductive cloning further distorts human procreation, and human cloned embryos are experimented on to perfect genetic engineering, among other terribles.
Or, we can continue to pretend it will never happen here and just allow it to actually happen here through torpor.