Use your own dirt

Mankind moves one step closer to replacing God:

A report by scientists Wednesday claiming that they have successfully cloned monkey embryos and extracted stem cells from them has religious bioethics groups concerned over impending human cloning.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, who led a team of research scientists at Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton, said they used skin cells from a 9-year-old adult male rhesus macaque monkey to create cloned embryos, and then extracted stem cells from the embryo clones.

Mice are the only other group of animals from which cloned embryonic stem cells have been created and now researchers are now saying the technique should work in humans.

It’s literally the oldest lie in the Book: “Ye shall be as gods.”

Some good news: Ian Wilmuth, creator of Dolly the Sheep, has decided not to apply his cloning technique to humans:

Prof Wilmut, who works at Edinburgh University, believes a rival method pioneered in Japan has better potential for making human embryonic cells which can be used to grow a patient’s own cells and tissues for a vast range of treatments, from treating strokes to heart attacks and Parkinson’s, and will be less controversial than the Dolly method, known as “nuclear transfer.”

His announcement could mark the beginning of the end for therapeutic cloning, on which tens of millions of pounds have been spent worldwide over the past decade. “I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer,” Prof Wilmut said.

Most of his motivation is practical but he admits the Japanese approach is also “easier to accept socially.”

His inspiration comes from the research by Prof Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, which suggests a way to create human embryo stem cells without the need for human eggs, which are in extremely short supply, and without the need to create and destroy human cloned embryos, which is bitterly opposed by the pro life movement.

Prof Yamanaka has shown in mice how to turn skin cells into what look like versatile stem cells potentially capable of overcoming the effects of disease.

This pioneering work to revert adult cells to an embryonic state has been reproduced by a team in America and Prof Yamanaka is, according to one British stem cell scientist, thought to have achieved the same feat in human cells.

Now, we’ll see whether this news is widely reported and whether it has any impact at all on the debate over the ethics.

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