Researchers oppose therapeutic cloning ban, support reproductive ban

JEFFERSON CITY – Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer holds unprecedented promise for the relief of human suffering, William Neaves, president of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City said.

SCNT does not create a new human life and is not the same thing as human cloning, Neaves said.

Neaves and Steven Teitelbaum, a researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine, testified against Senate Bill 160 Monday.

“Washington University School of Medicine, poised to be the top medical school in the U.S. and therefore the world, would be devastated by the passage of Senate Bill 160,” Neaves said.

Yet, there is a greater concern at Washington University about the harm this bill would do to the people of Missouri, Neaves said.

“It would sacrifice a sick Missourians hope for a cure because of a religious belief, a religious belief that other people of faith do not hold, a belief that the patients own cells in a laboratory dish are more important than that person’s life,” Neaves said.

“Senate bill 160 would prevent patients in Missouri from using SCNT cures that might be developed elsewhere in the years ahead,” Neaves said.

The process of SCNT involves taking a human donor egg, removing the nuclear material and replacing it with donor nuclear material.

The cloned single-cell embryo then develops into a blastocyst, and embryonic stem cells are harvested.

Embryonic stem cells, placed in a dish and stimulated can form specialized cells potentially useful in the treatment of a wide-range of diseases.

The process is similar to the way an ordinary skin cell is taken from a burned individual and used to grow skin grafts for use on the burns, Neaves said.

Embryonic stems cells are pluripotent, meaning they can turn into whatever we want, Teitelbaum. Adult stem cells are by and large unipotent.

“Adult stem cells do not have the therapeutic value as embryonic stem cells,” Teitelbaum said.

This is not a contest between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells, Teitelbaum said.

“This is a contest between us as a society and disease,” he said. “We should be moving forward on all fronts and taking advantage of those techniques which are best suited to cure my patients with these devastating diseases.”

Both Teitelbaum and Neaves endorse a ban on reproductive cloning, and the criminalization of implanting a cloned human embryo in a womb.

Concerns human egg donors might be exploited as demand for eggs increase are a reasonable concern. We can take stem cells and make them backward and make eggs. It has already been done in mice, Teitelbaum said.

Teitelbaum is the first person to cure a fatal disease, malignant osteopetrosis, in children using adult stem cells.

Because of genetic incompatibilities, the success rate for treating malignant osteopetrosis with adult stem cells is ten-percent.

“I want to be able to say the chances are 90%,” Teitelbaum said. “We can do that with SCNT.”