Human Exceptionalism

CIRM Grants not as Advertised to Voters

This is an interesting analysis on a Nature blog on how the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine is spending money taken out of the hides of Californians. In addition to spending hundreds of millions of borrowed taxpayer dollars to build the plushest buildings, designed by the world’s most exclusive architects, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine isn’t funding human cloning. From the story:

The California scientists most likely to receive state grants for making new cell lines were those who proposed comparing embryonic stem cell lines and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines. Overall, thirty-two percent of all grant applications (16 of 50) were funded. Four of the five grants that proposed comparisons got funds. The unfunded grant application crossed into less favored categories, as it also proposed making lines from parthenotes and through nuclear transfer. None of the grant applications that sought to make cell lines using human oocytes were funded. Two proposed cloning through nuclear transfer, one proposed stimulating unfertilized eggs to divide into parthenotes, and one application proposed using both methods. Success rates for grants proposing the derivation of only ES or only iPS cells were each 33%, but there were twice as many grants for iPS cells. That’s astounding considering that the grant program was announced in October 2007, a month before the first publications that human cells could be successfully reprogrammed.

The lack of cloning grants–to be celebrated–wasn’t due to ethical concerns, but the egg dearth:

Also called therapeutic cloning, SCNT involves inserting the nucleus from one cell into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. Then the egg is stimulated to grow into a blastocyst, which would be destroyed to collect the innermost cells from which embryonic stem cells can be derived. Though harvesting these inner cells is the typical way of creating embryonic stem cells, it hasn’t worked yet for SCNT in humans, a failure blamed on an insufficient number of eggs for the attempts required to generate healthy blastocysts.

As we’ve written here at SHS before, the drive has already begun to enable researchers to pay women to risk their health via egg procurement so that scientists can play with human cloning experiments. But if we hold tight on the egg issue–and given the advances of IPSCs–which are being funded by CIRM even though it is also eligible for federal funding, we may yet allow a robust regenerative medical sector to develop without throwing ethics and decency into the trash compactor.